Why I work in coffee shops

When people hear I work from home, they often express a desire to do the same. Fact is, most days I end up working outside the home office.

If you work in a corporate office, you may occasionally wish you could work at home. Avoiding the daily commute might be a big reason behind such longing, or perhaps you crave losing the distractions that plague you at work.

Honeymoon Coffee Shop
Image: James Kendrick/CBS Interactive

Having worked at home for years, I feel your pain. I can't imagine going back to a 9-to-5 office with everything that goes with it. Being able to work in the home office I carefully set up to facilitate the work is great.

So why do I end up working in public venues, especially coffee shops, almost every day? Several reasons push me out on the streets regularly.

See also: 5 tips for getting the most out of working at home | Coffee shop work etiquette | The folly of public meetings | Outlet addicts: Laptop owners who don't get the concept


You may be tired of seeing your coworkers every day, but working at home may be harder than you think. Many home workers tell me they get tired of the solitude during the day. Many homes are deserted during normal work hours, leaving the home worker all alone.

That's a big reason I work outside my office most days . It is invigorating to be out among the hordes going through their work day. The hustle and bustle of the city center keeps me from getting bored, and keeps me in touch with the real world.

It helps my work, too. I see first hand what mobile gear is being used, and how. I get a look at the phones, tablets, and laptops that are carried around and used in public venues. I don't see that if I stay back at the home office, tucked behind a screen with no one around.

Not about the wi-fi

You may be thinking I work in coffee shops to get access to free wi-fi, but that's not a factor. I have become so intolerant of poor connectivity, which I find to be the case almost everywhere, that I use 4G daily.

I would never have met a local news journalist nor a famous anime artist if I stayed in the home office each day.

I tune into the public hotspot when I first get there, and if it is a typical connection I turn off the wi-fi and let the 4G take over. It is common for my mobile broadband to get five - ten times the speed compared to the public hotspot. Poor connectivity doesn't prevent me from getting work done, but it's not something I'm willing to put up with.

I often work with the iPad Air and a keyboard when writing in public, and it has integrated 4G. On days when I bring a Chromebook or other laptop, none of which has 4G, I bring one of my Kindle Fire HDX tablets.

Both of my Kindles have 4G so I use them as mobile hotspots for the laptop. I never have problems with them, just turn on the mobile hotspot feature, put the Kindle in my bag, and I'm off to the races.

Using 4G daily doesn't make a big hit on my monthly data usage. I track it regularly and it's always much less than I think it will be.


Apart from being in public and in the middle of things, working in coffee shops is great for building relationships with the people I see every day. This ranges from the workers in the shops I frequent to regular patrons like me.

I have forged many good friendships due to working in public. These friends are from all walks of life and not just in my industry. I would never have met a local news journalist nor a famous anime artist if I stayed in the home office each day.

Avoiding isolation

Working regularly in public as opposed to the home office is about avoiding isolation. While quiet time is good from time to time, being in the thick of things is better for me. That may not be the case for some but it works well for me.

If you are easily distracted while working, this isn't the way to go for you. The quiet, isolated home office may be what you need to be productive, and that's OK.

If you are considering approaching your employer about working at home, consider it carefully before doing so. I have several friends who handled the isolation of home work fine at first, but ultimately couldn't take it. They ended up going back to the corporate office by choice.

I'm fortunate that isolation doesn't bother me, even in the home office. When I get in the zone, I can write through anything, even a hurricane. That's not idle talk, I have worked through a major hurricane without missing a beat. Other than being terrified during the storm, I was able to focus on my writing.

I've come to love working in public. While I don't always work in coffee shops , it's my favorite type of venue. Good coffee, good people, and a comfortable work space is hard to beat.