Freelancing and remote work are on the rise in the UK. In fact, the number of self-employed workers has tripled since 2001. One benefit is the option to work wherever you want (wherever there is Wi-Fi, of course). A popular work environment for freelancers is the coffee shop. These can be the ideal office for a number of reasons – the most obvious being that you have access to coffee and food. But when you first decide to work in coffee shops and try out several, you’ll develop some pet peeves. Here are some of the struggles freelancers will encounter when they work in coffee shops.
1. Nowhere to Sit
Because freelancing is on the rise, there is a flood of people doing work in coffee shops, especially the popular shops. This may present opportunities for freelancers to socialize with each other (although most freelancers, in my experience, don’t do this – at least, not in coffee shops). If you aren’t looking to socialize, however, the downside is that it can be a bit of a challenge to find somewhere to sit. At least if you work in an office, you know that when you get there, you will have your own desk.
You can avoid this problem, though, by arriving at the coffee shop early (This can be a struggle for freelancers who often enjoy sleeping in and begin working after 9 am).
2. No Mains Sockets
Even if you can find a seat in a coffee shop, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be next to a mains socket. Some coffee shops are conscious of the fact that they attract freelancers and will make sure there is an abundance of sockets. But not all do this. It can be quite annoying to get into a productive groove, only to notice that your battery is dying. Worse yet, you may have deadlines to meet. Stressing out about your depleting battery is not ideal when you have time constraints to deal with.
If you plan on doing work in a coffee shop, make sure you always fully charge your laptop before leaving home or get there early enough to snag the ideal spot.
Another major downside of working in coffee shops is that they can get very noisy at times. Some coffee shops can play extremely distracting or very loud music. If a coffee shop allows dogs, then that’s a bonus (for dog lovers), although having more than one dog in a place increases the chances of incessant barking. There’s also the problem of noisy coffee machines, the maddening cacophony of chatter, disruptive kids, and crying babies.
One solution to this problem is to find a chilled-out coffee shop, one that is big enough so noise can dissipate a bit more, one that plays quieter, more work-friendly music. A lot of freelancers will also block out noise with their own headphones and music. This can work wonders, so long as you have decent noise-canceling headphones.
4. Back Pain
While coffee shops may be popular places for freelancers to work, the seats don’t tend to be designed for back health. This isn’t an issue for ordinary coffee shop visitors, who tend to just meet for a quick drink and a chat. But it can cause issues for freelancers, leading to mild annoyance and distraction at best or lasting back pain at worst. I have yet to actually find a coffee shop that has ergonomic chairs. I know, of course, that this is unsurprising, as coffee shops aren’t co-working spaces or offices.
You can handle this by making sure you practice good posture when sitting down. This will help to minimize lower back pain, even when you’re sitting on a non-ergonomic chair or a bench. Always sit with your feet shoulder-width apart and planted firmly on the ground (not crossed under your chair, which is quite tempting to do). Sit with your back straight by imagining you have a piece of string attached to the top of your head, pulling you up to the ceiling. This will allow you to make your body as tall as possible and correct your posture.
These common struggles don’t mean that freelancers should ditch the coffee shop and just work at home or at co-working spaces. After all, working at home can be quite isolating and co-working spaces can be expensive. For some people, the best solution is to add some variety into their workweek, choosing to work from home one day, a coffee shop the next day, and perhaps exploring a new option another day (e.g. libraries, hotels, and co-working spaces).
It’s worth experimenting with different coffee shops until you find one that is ideal for you. Your work environment can have a huge impact on your focus, productivity, and creativity. So as a freelancer, you should always make your work location a top priority, whether you’re doing your work in coffee shops or elsewhere.
One final note of caution. You’d do best to have one cup of coffee to start with, then lay off it and stick to water throughout the rest of your day in the coffee shop because of the side effects of drinking too much coffee.