Digital Nomad Lifestyle Tips for Finding the Perfect Café to Work From

Doing your work in the right café can be the difference between a productive deep-work session or a bad experience. You have your computer and all your documents in the cloud, but as a digital nomad, your work location always changes especially if you are constantly moving from city to city. The best digital nomad remote workers have their needed work gear all in a backpack or computer bag ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice – they can work from anywhere, in a startup hub, a corner office, a café, at poolside or an outside location. Having a handful of cafés you can reliably go to and do your deep work to progress business projects is extremely useful, but even better is to have criteria on how to instantly evaluate a cafe on whether it will be right to do work.

Find the perfect café for deep work – Digital Nomad Explorer

If you want to get some work done at a café, how do you even go about finding the right one? There are lots to keep in mind as you track down the perfect café for remote working. Including:
• How busy the café gets, as too many people can detract from your focus and productivity
• The lighting in the café, which shouldn’t prevent you from getting your work done or cause headaches
• The friendliness of the staff, which you may interact with over days or weeks
• The volume levels of the café, since a noisy environment will make it nearly impossible to work
• The Internet connectivity and WLAN capabilities, as without the Internet, you can’t get anything done

If you’re seeking a new working space for your digital nomad lifestyle, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll expand on the above points, helping you narrow down the criteria for selecting the right café. We’ll also share some pointers for locating an ideal working environment no matter where your travels take you.

Why You Need a Quiet Environment for Remote Work

As an entrepreneur enjoying the digital nomad life, you don’t have one dedicated workspace. Okay, maybe there’s your office back in your home country, but you haven’t been there in a long time. You can use makeshift just about any space for getting your work done, but sometimes these are less than ideal.

For instance, you try to get some work done at the airport before you have to shut down your computer for hours at a time. However, with your laptop balanced in your lap and screaming kids on either side of you, it’s not exactly easy to concentrate.

Find the perfect, quiet environment to do your remote work – Digital Nomad Explorer

Listen, we understand that you often have to improvise how and where you work with your travel-centric schedule. Still, you should have some standards for yourself, such as silence.

According to a 2017 article from marketing resource Zapier, too much noise can hurt you in many ways. Most obviously, your focus and productivity will suffer.

Let’s continue with the example of you getting some cram work in at an airport before a flight. You sit down in one of the available seats. Your laptop battery is fully charged so that you could work for hours. At the moment, no one’s sitting around you. Hight score, right? You’re across from a busy restaurant where patrons have gathered before getting on the plane.
Within 30 minutes, people begin sitting near you. Each time they do, you get distracted and lose focus. A vast crowd of loud, possibly drunk people leaves the restaurant, causing a ruckus. Again, you get distracted and stop working. A mother with a screaming child passes through the airport. The kid’s crying makes you lose a good five or 10 minutes of work, once again due to distraction.

Before you know it, they’re calling your flight number, and you’ve barely gotten anything done. You had an hour to work, and you wasted most of it on pointless minutiae.

Besides your productivity and focus, you can cause harm to your body in a lot of surprising ways by working in a noisy environment all the time. Here’s how.

Reduced Brain Function

A 2011 cover story in the American Psychological Association focused on children whose school was by an airport. The school eventually moved, giving the kids a quieter environment in which to learn. According to the study, the children didn’t do nearly as well on reading comprehension or long-term memory testing at the louder school. There seemed to be a correlation between noise and brain function, then.

Developing a Slew of Conditions and Diseases

Did you know a quiet environment can potentially ward off diseases and conditions? It’s true. Zapier mentions a study that says we have more stress hormones in louder environments. Not only that, but we have a higher chance of getting tinnitus (an audial condition), heart disease, and kidney and brain damage. Each year, heart disease kills roughly 610,000 Americans. That makes it the top deadly disease in the country. It’s also no surprise that loud environments lead to sleep issues.

So, what exactly constitutes a loud environment? Airports, for one. Working near a significant highway also counts.

It’s possible to work at the beach cafe as a digital nomad if you find the right setting and lighting – Digital Nomad Explorer

The Criteria for Choosing a Café for Remote Work

The above section has convinced you to find a quieter work environment, like a café. How do you go about choosing the right one? Make sure the establishment meets these criteria.

Mobile Connectivity Coverage

You know it as well as we do: if you don’t have a reliable Internet connection, you can’t work. From checking emails to restocking your store, running analytics, and responding to customer queries on social media, you need the Internet for all those tasks.

You don’t want to use LTE if you work on your smartphone or tablet. If you do, you’ll burn through your data in a day, if not a matter of hours. Most cafés will have their own network you can join. Most of the time, it’s free for any patron to use this network. In some instances, you might have to input a password. If so, then ask for it before banging your head against a wall.
Sometimes, though, if the café gets especially busy, too many people shop online. That gives you spotty Internet that goes in and out. In that case, you’ll want to have a wireless LAN, also known as a WLAN. This handy piece of equipment lets you hook up several devices across the wireless Internet. Doing so makes your own local area network so you can get some quality work done.

Staff Friendliness

If you space out your travels and spend several weeks or months in one place, then you’ll likely visit the same café often. That means you should get along with the staff there. They don’t have to become your new best friends, but everyone should treat you with kindness and respect. Of course, you’re expected to do the same.

If someone gives you a casual attitude or has an unpleasant demeanor, that will make you not want to go to the café. In such a situation, you should probably look for another place to work.

Atmosphere in the café is important for the remote worker – Digital Nomad Explorer

Amount of People

We already mentioned that the more people at the café, the more they hog up the Internet. That’s not a massive problem if you have your own WLAN, but crowds can cause other issues, too. They may sit close to you and have loud conversations, making it tough to work. Even if the atmosphere stays relatively quiet, that many people around can majorly distract you.
If you keep taking hits on your productivity like this, then you won’t get much of anything done. You’ll then have to work later into the night or on weekends, both of which aren’t ideal.

Lighting

The lighting in the café matters if you want to do some deep work and progress your projects. Not only does it establish a calm ambiance, but it can also help or hinder you as you work.

For instance, bright lights such as fluorescents can hurt your eyes. If you work in this lighting often enough, you could get fluorescent light sensitivity. According to fluorescent light glasses company TheraSpecs, you may experience the following symptoms with fluorescent light sensitivity:
• Depression and anxiety
• Lethargy
• Nausea
• Inability to breathe
• Dizziness or vertigo
• Migraines and headaches
• Incapability to focus or read well
• Eye inflammation, pain, and strain

On the topic of eye strain, it’s not just bright lights that should have you worried. If the café has mood lighting that’s too dim, you’ll strain your eyes trying to see. The result of eye strain is that it could cause headaches and migraines as well as possible eye conditions if done often enough.

Sound Levels

You expect a café to have a reasonable amount of noise. There are the buzzing and whirring of the coffee machines in action and the low hum of quiet conversations. Loud, sharp sounds and voices can bring you out of your workflow. If you have to deal with these kinds of noises often, your workload will keep piling up.

Resources such as books & apps will help you find the right café for your remote work – Digital Nomad Explorer

Find the Perfect Café

Using the above criteria, you can begin your search for a café in which you can do remote work. Which tools can aid you as you scope out your new workspace? Here are some of our favorite methods to use.

Rely on Book Guides

Head to the closest bookstore and pick up a city or town guidebook. Make sure it was published within the last year, maybe two years at most. Otherwise, you could waste your time reading outdated information.

Go Online

If you can’t find a bookstore or you don’t have the time to go, then pick up your phone and get digging. The Internet provides a treasure trove of information. You can use a Google listing to check out a café and see how people rate it. Look at the café’s social media profiles and read reviews there, too.

In most cases, you can see images and sometimes even videos of the café. Google also has a handy feature telling you when the place should be most busy. All this information will give you a good impression of what it’s like at the café before you ever set foot in it.

Of course, do know that the Internet can suffer from inaccuracies, too. If a place suddenly closes, it could take weeks or months before Google updates the listing to reflect that.

Try an App

Many apps exist for those looking for a place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Here’s some of the best you might try:
Urban Spoon
TripAdvisor
Yelp

You can also use Workfrom, and it’s not an app, but rather, a site designed for digital nomads and remote workers. You input your zip code or city name, and Workfrom tells you places you can spend the day getting work done. These aren’t exclusively cafés, but also libraries, restaurants, and even grocery stores. Whatever coworking spaces exist near you, they will pop up here.

A café in Paris – the possibilities to find the right café for you to work are endless – Digital Nomad Explorer

Scout out Places

Okay, you’ve found a few cafés and done in-depth research on them all. You’ve also read reviews and checked out images and videos. Now it’s time for you to go to the café finally.

Plan to spend an hour or two at this place. Does it exceed expectations or were you underwhelmed? If you have several cafés in the area, then try another one if you didn’t like the first. If you can only find one café by you, then consider working somewhere else or expand your search radius.

The Pros and Cons of Working Remotely at a Café

While we’ve advocated for doing your remote work in a café, we want to present balanced information here. Cafés aren’t always all great, and sometimes you might find being here more burdensome than other places.
That’s why, to aid you in your search, we’re presenting the pros and cons of working remotely at a café.

Pros

One of the biggest pros has to be the ambiance. Cafés must look appealing to attract business. There’s charming décor, new artwork, and large windows that let you get some sunlight. You don’t find all that in an airport or cooped up in a traditional office.

Also, cafés often have comfortable furniture. After all, when some people come to visit, it’s usually for hours at a time. From couches to plush booth seating, you won’t get up with a sore, achy back at the end of the day.
You’ll also be among like-minded folk. While not everyone at the café works as a digital nomad like yourself, lots of people who come in bring their laptop and plan to stay for a while. Perhaps they’re college students writing a big paper or other freelancers and remote workers. Either way, you’re far from alone.

Cons

As we talked about throughout this article, the noise levels can make doing remote work at a café a real issue. If you don’t already own some, you might want to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. These should block most of the noises from patrons or an old, noisy coffeemaking machine.

The lighting can also give you headaches or migraines if it’s too bright. We mentioned this point as well, but it’s worth repeating. If the café lights are too dim, though, then you might get eye strain. Like before, the eye strain can cause headaches or migraines. It can sometimes feel like a lose-lose situation. You’ll have to get especially picky about the lighting before you choose a café. Otherwise, you will always have an achy head.

Also, make sure you get to the café at a good time. Early in the morning, you might arrive to see a line out the door. That’s because lots of people want to start their day with a cup of coffee before heading off to work. Later in the morning, the crowd should die off. If you get there before lunchtime, you’ll miss the often-busy noon crowd. Then things should get cramped again after working hours, so five o’ clock. Choose the times you arrive carefully and expect more distractions at these times.

Deep work is important for a digital nomad entrepreneur – Digital Nomad Explorer

The Suggested Length of Time to Stay at the Café

Okay, you’ve found a great café in which to get some work done. You have your laptop, your charging cables, some headphones, and your wallet. It’s time to get down to business.

Exactly how long should you stay at the café? Digital nomads and remote workers don’t seem to agree on one specific amount. Some say two to four hours; others say the full eight. You only want to stick around for as long as the café is open. You’ll get kicked out if you try to hang out after business hours.

There’s also the etiquette of working remotely at a café. You know the saying you have to spend money to make money, right? That’s quite true at these establishments. Since you’re not charged to use the café’s services, you can’t just expect to sit around all day and not spend a cent.

You should at least buy a coffee. If you’re staying maybe two to three hours, that should suffice. If it’s four to six hours, then you might want to purchase a few drinks. Do you plan on working here all day? You should spend more money. Maybe get yourself a pastry or a lunch item in addition to your drinks.

Conclusion

You don’t have a permanent workspace with your digital nomad lifestyle, and this doesn’t bother you either since it means you get to travel all the places your heart desires. Often, though, you find it hard to concentrate when working in crowded locales like airports.

Why not try doing some remote work at a café instead? You’ll want to be stringent on the lighting, noise levels, crowd size, and Internet connectivity at the establishment. This way, you can work as productively as possible. By using apps, books, and websites to help you narrow down your search, you can always find an excellent café nearby and get some work done.

Michael Haralson

I'm the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I've traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I'm location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.

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