How To Work From A Coffee Shop Without Being An Annoyance

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 18 months ago
How To Work From A Coffee Shop Without Being An Annoyance
This is ok but a sofa shouldn't be taken up by one person. Photo: Ann Wuyts

These days, it's not uncommon to see people working from coffee shops. After all, they have all the necessities — power sockets, free wifi and, most importantly, caffeine. We've even listed our favourite independent coffee shops to work from.

But we've seen plenty of people exercising bad habits and annoying others, so we've come up with some guidelines for Londoners who use coffee shops as offices:

Buy something

It may seem obvious but a coffee shop is a business, and they need money to survive, so it's not acceptable to buy a single cup of coffee and nurse it for six hours. If you're using it during the busy hours over lunchtime, tables are at a premium so make sure to buy some food as well.

Don't spread out

Yes, working these days requires a lot of equipment including phones, chargers, laptops etc. But that's no excuse to spread out so much that one person takes over a table intended for four. It's the equivalent of putting a bag on the seat next to you on crowded public transport, and we all hate those people.

Coffee shops tend to have areas set aside for groups, so it's not great when a single person takes over a set of sofas just to hammer away on a laptop.

Share the power

In an age of power-hungry devices, it's important to have access to sockets to charge phones and laptops. But be generous with the plugs and try not to hog both sockets the whole time, especially if someone is glancing around looking for a free one to charge their dying phone.

If you see someone who has clearly forgotten their charging cable and is down to minimum battery, offer to lend yours to them. Inform others of the wifi password if there is one. It will make their day, and make you feel good about yourself too.

If you're going to make a phone call, take it outside like these two people have. Photo: UncanD

Keep the noise down

If you are listening to something with audio, then for goodness sake, use headphones. As well as not annoying others, you'll also get better sound quality than the tinny noise that laptop speakers produce.

Repeated phone calls are best avoided too. One or two are OK, but to constantly bombard the people next to you with one half of a conversation is painful. Take the calls outside if you have to — see our final point if you are going to leave your things behind.

Don't hog the wifi

The wifi is being used by everyone in the coffee shop, so users should show some consideration and not hog the bandwidth by making lots of Skype calls or streaming video content — unless it's a video by Londonist, of course.

Look after your belongings

We know we sound like one of those signs, but thieves do operate in London so watch your stuff. When using the bathroom, make sure to pocket your phone, as these are easy to steal, and ask someone to keep an eye on your laptop.

It doesn't guarantee anything, but at least there will be a set of eyes watching out for any suspicious people milling around.

Those are our rules. If you have any more to add, do let us know in the comments below.

For more on our series of rules for Londoners see:

Last Updated 26 August 2016

Jade McCarthy

Great article and from experience working in a coffee shop a lot of these can be true!

I currently work in an office and it's difficult to get away for a nice quality coffee apart from during lunch hours. Recently we have acquired a Cafe2U that comes along the courtyard. They do fantastic tasting coffee for great prices and I would highly recommend seeing what ones are near you.

For more information check out -

Robin Rowles

If multiple devices need charging and plug sockets scarce, most devices will happily charge from a laptop's USB socket.


Definitely some important advice there that I would not have thought of if not for this article.

I've been worried lately that when I am reading book on a train en route to the cafe where I work, I may inadvertently be breaking the etiquette of that situation, too. For example, perhaps being naked and surrounding myself with a flock of albino llamas is considered a discourtesy to my fellow passengers. Would Londonist consider commissioning an article to clarify this situation for me?