Editor's note: Nearly 10 percent of the American workforce (roughly 13.4 million people) clock in from home, an increase of 11 million people since 1997, according to CBS News. Interestingly, the report also said that remote workers earn "significantly" more than their counterparts in the office. If you're part of this section of the workforce, communications consultant Arik Hanson (himself a remote worker) shared these seven tips last January on how to better work from a coffee shop:
1. Find the outlets
You know the guy who walks into the coffee shop and immediately roams the room, looking at spots along the floorboards? That’s me.
Don’t be that guy. You need to make sure the coffee house where you work has ample outlets. Note which spots have more than one outlet. After all, no outlet means, no power cord. And no power cord means a dead laptop. Don’t get caught with a dead laptop. It’s a quick productivity killer.
2. Make friends with the baristas
If you plan to spend a decent amount of time at a particular cafe, start talking with the baristas. You can only benefit by befriending these folks. They can and will:
• Offer you special deals from time to time;
• Give you free coffee, if you’re remotely nice;
• Help you with other ad-hoc questions and issues as they pop up.
For advanced remote workers: Reach out to and make friends with the manager. Make sure he or she knows you on a first-name basis.
3. Invest in some killer headphones
I used to think this was an age-specific tip. Good headphones tune out ambient noise. And believe me, there’s plenty of ambient noise in a coffee shop. You need good phones. (I recommend Klipsch phones
.) Once you have those, make Pandora your new BFF. [Ed’s note: We prefer Spotify for our Internet radio.
4: Never leave your stuff unattended
Seems like an obvious tip, but believe me, I’ve seen a number of people leave Mac laptops unattended for five to 10 minutes at a time.
Sure, you’d probably be fine. But why risk it with employee or client data just a few keystrokes away?
My rule: Take your bag with you everywhere
: the bathroom, the car, the other side of the cafe. I take zero risks, and I’m sure my clients like it that way.
5. Know where the bathrooms are located
If you’re going to spend an hour or two in a coffee house, chances are you may have to use the restroom. Make sure you know where they’re located. In some cases they can be tough to find, so this isn’t as obvious as it might sound.
6. Don’t rely on the free Wi-Fi
Even though many coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi, I’ve learned (the hard way) not to count on it. For many reasons:
• They forget to “turn it on.”
• It goes in and out.
• Some shops just don’t offer it (for free, at least);
• Plus, it’s not always safe.
Always go in with a “plan B.” My-Fi devices are a good idea, but they’re spendy and unnecessary for most folks who only work remotely a day or two a week.
I recommend using your phone as a hot spot
—that is, if you have an iPhone 4—I just upgraded my iPhone package to add a personal hotspot last year. Problem solved. It’s worth the extra $20 a month.
7. Don’t take conference calls at the coffee shop
Believe me, I’ve tried. But taking conference calls in the coffee shop just isn’t a good idea. It’s fairly rude to those around you and to those on the phone, as coffee shops are often loud and that can be heard on the other end of the line. You can try Bluetooth devices, headphones, whatever. It’s still loud. And you’ll always have a tough time hearing the folks on the line. Worse yet, they have a tough time hearing you. Don’t do it. Save your calls for the office (or the car).
What about you? Do you work out of coffee shops from time to time? Any good insider tips to share?
Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. A version of this post originally appeared on Communications Conversations.