On Cafe Working

Since arriving in Santiago, I’ve been posed with the challenge of finding good locations to work from. I like to work from cafes, which I refer to as “cafeworking”. Whether you’re traveling or just wanting to get out of the house for the day though (assuming you work from home, like I normally do), your selection criteria are probably similar either way. I decided that I’d document some of the things I look for when I’m trying to find a good place to work for the day. Feel free to add your own criteria in the comments.

Some of the things I look for in a good cafeworking location:

  • Internet Access — Obviously this is important, and it can be harder than you might expect to find decent wifi/connectivity. Places that have a sticker up don’t always have it, places that do have it are sometimes being leeched by people (so it’s slow), signal strength can be weak, or worst of all, wifi can be fine, but internet connectivity is down, or patchy/slow. The worst part here is if you don’t find out about problems until after you’ve already ordered something, because then not only are you stuck there with what you’ve ordered, but if you have to go somewhere else, you’ve got to order something again.
  • Ergonomics — My aim is always to find somewhere that I can sit for at least 3 hours to get some work done. This means that ideally I want a table of some sort, and a comfortable chair. It doesn’t need to be a Herman Miller or anything, but ideally I want more than a wooden fold-up chair if I can get it. Also in this category is looking for a place where I can sit that doesn’t result in sun reflecting off my screen. Especially with a glossy MacBook Pro, this is a big issue. You should also be looking out for sun in your eyes, the height of the table you score and possibly your position in relation to others (in case you don’t want someone looking over your shoulder while you’re working).
  • Power Availability — This one is less of an issue for some people (of whom I am thoroughly jealous). For us MacBook Pro users, it’s going to be pretty important because realistically, you only get a couple of hours’ juice from your battery, and working with your screen brightness turned down extends your untethered time a bit, but is really annoying. I picked up an external HyperMac battery which gives me a couple extra hours on top of the built-in one, but I still need a power outlet if I want to sit somewhere all day and work with full screen brightness. Mac power bricks (with the optional extension cord) give you good range, but if you’re in a different country and using one of the international adapters which you dutifully picked up at the Apple Store, you may find yourself cut short. Because of the way the official Apple adapters work, you can’t use the extension end of the cord at the same time, so youhalf the distance you’re able to sit from a power outlet.
  • Decent Food/Beverages — This one is a no-brainer. If you’re going to be working somewhere all day, you want to be able to buy some food and drink to keep you going (and to stop them from kicking you out!). Sometimes it’s fun to work somewhere that serves “adult beverages” so that at the end of the day you can enjoy a glass of vino or a cerveza while you’re finishing off your day’s work.
  • Vibe — The last one is more of an attitude than anything specific you’ll be able to see from a difference. I like to refer to this as “the vibe“. It takes into account the general feel of the place, and specifically the attitude of the staff. You don’t want to be somewhere that you feel unwelcome, where they’re hovering over your shoulder every 15 minutes trying to get you to buy something, or where there is an outright policy of not allowing people to work all day. This one is hard to judge based on a quick walk-through of a cafe, but with a bit of practice and a quick, honest question here and there, you should be OK.

Once you find a place with all of this, then all you need to do is concentrate long enough to get anything done 🙂

What do you look for when you’re cafe-working? Let me know below, I’m interested to hear what’s important for other folks.