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The Pros & Cons Of Becoming A Coffee Shop Working Ball Bag

The coffee shop culture has been around for years. Since the boom and coolness stigma attached to coffee hit new heights the coffee shops have been full of freelancers, remote workers, students and inspiring business owners. It’s almost a sign of ‘making it’ in the digital world if you can spend a day working in a coffee shop.

When I was an office bound number crunching monkey however I always looked on at the coffee shop workers with envy, ridiculing them.

‘Look at those wankers pretending they are working while drinking coffee. Why don’t they get a real job?’

That RIDICULOUS attitude I bitch and moan about throughout this blog is the attitude I actually had before becoming a home worker myself. I didn’t get the coffee shop working culture. To be truthful for the past 4 months I’ve been working remotely I hadn’t stepped into a coffee shop to work until yesterday.

Monday the 15th October 2012 I became the coffee shop working ball bag.

Why Ball Bag?

There’s something about working from coffee shops which I disliked. I became judgmental of those individuals who choose this as their working environment. I had absolutely no justification for thinking like this but I did think like this. I thought everyone who worked from a coffee shop was a ball bag.

But this whole working from home gig is a ‘project’ and is indeed work in progress so I decided to give the coffee shop a whirl. Truth be told It was a rotten day, I was feeling glum and wanted a change of scenery. It also happened to be extremely close to a place I was having a meeting.

I no longer wanted to be judgemental of this culture yet I couldn’t understand it. Where was the productivity within a coffee shop? How is the company of BMW X5 driving Mums a worthwhile exercise (for productivity)?

Issues aside I walked into the local Starbucks, set up my laptop and then ordered my drink. The time had come for me to experience coffee shop working and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. With every situation there are pros and cons. I only happened to spend three hours within the coffee shop as I believed productivity wise that was the correct strategy. If you’re deciding to ‘go it alone’ or work remotely using coffee shops then consider the below pros and cons and how they fit into what you have planned. The coffee shop is not for everyone and doesn’t suit every task. It does however have a lot of positives which shouldn’t be overlooked for those lonely home working days.


Free Wifi  –  Standard now really but has to be mentioned. The WIFI is good, real good actually and is of course free when you jump into the majority of coffee shops. For those who are business start up’s then the free wifi is incredible as the coffee shop can become a revolving door of meetings, work, meetings and work. Nobody judges your professionalism when they meet you in a coffee shop.


Good Coffee Makes Me Smile

Great Coffee – I’m far from a snob when it comes to coffee and quite possibly I’m easily pleased but I do enjoy having a ‘real’ coffee in a coffee shop from time to time. Freshly ground beans and the smell surrounding you makes the coffee taste even better.  The real stuff is available and if you are hitting a coffee shop you need to take real advantage.

Interaction – Working from home permanently means you very rarely interact with people. Sure you have business calls and meetings but that’s not real interaction. Working from a coffee shop however you get to see ‘real’ faces again and interact with the workers of the coffee shop. It doesn’t sound much but when you work from home this interaction is warming and provides a welcome distraction from time to time.

A Buzz surrounding you – One of the main positives of working from home is the lack of noise around you. Productivity is through the roof, you become focused and on task with your deliverables. That same lack of noise can also be your worst enemy. If you are having a crappy day then there’s nothing worse than silence.

I met an ex colleague on Friday and he asked me if I missed my previous role and I said ‘No but I miss people, I miss hearing conversations, talking to people from all walks of life and feeling secure’. A coffee shop buzz is not quite the same as you don’t know the people around you (unless you become a regular) but it does give a close resemblance to the office environment for when you are having a lonely day.

It worked a treat for me as it gave me a chance of scenery and that ‘noise’ you can miss from the office from time to time.

I’m going to make sure I am really busy mentality – This comes back to the ball bag comment and the whole ‘coffee shop’ working mentality. I’m a dickhead when it comes to listening to people’s opinions of me. I continuously want to prove people wrong and tell them how hard ‘working from home’ is. I have no idea why it bothers me, it shouldn’t but it does.

I had this same mentality when it came to working from the coffee shop and I believe I’m not the only one. I read a great article in the Independent about coffee shop working where Cathy Hume said  “There is some sense of feeling that you are on public show and that having made the trip out to the coffee shop in order to work you are duty bound to focus,”. I agree with Cathy’s sentiments entirely and it think it stems back to my own preconceived perception of coffee shop workers.

I felt I had to work hard because people were watching me, analysing my every move to see whether the laptop was for real or was just for sure. I’m sure this is all a fabrication in my mind but still you think that.

Self Pride –  Pride is a wonderful thing. Self pride is even more wonderful. This sounds dramatic but sitting in a coffee shop, working away made me have a sense of self pride due to what I had achieved.

I’d gone from an office bound corporate to a flexible working, location independent trusted employee. I had to pinch myself to think I’m actually sat in a coffee shop getting paid to work.  There’s nothing more rewarding and fulfilling than a sense of trust. I was proud to be sat in the coffee shop working hard and I was enthused to work my balls off for the company who had entrusted me with this opportunity. Knowing that having the ‘freedom’ to work from a coffee shop is not available for all made me even more thankful for the position I was in and more than anything the lifestyle I had been granted.


Expensive – Let’s not  beat around the bush here, to spend every day in a coffee shop and drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, have a bite to eat and so forth will cost you around £10. Over  a month this is around £200. Quite a bit of money. As a remote worker I see the coffee shop as a treat bi weekly or even monthly when you are feeling glum. For £200 a month you could invest in a shared office space or probably invest in Starbucks shares. Be selective with your coffee shop time.

One screen – I’m a sucker for productivity and more than one screen which is why I made the extra effort to make my home office better than the actual offices I’ve worked in. As soon as you hit the coffee shop you essentially lose this productivity side of having dual monitors in your home office.  An easy work around is to use your coffee shop time for tasks which don’t require constant minimising. I purposely scheduled a ton of emails which I needed to reply to for my time in the coffee shop. Because of this the one screen limitations didn’t seem as much of a problem as I envisaged.

Limited Power supplies – There’s a number of opinions of why this is the case including that coffee shops don’t want you to sit in the same position all day. There are some of us who abuse the opportunity, purchase one cheap coffee and sit in the shop for 8 hours. This is why some of the larger chains have limited power supplies yet some of the smaller independent coffee shops see it as a unique selling point.

Personally it’s a con of why I wouldn’t work in a coffee shop for more than 3 hours at a time; the availability of power supplies is so sparse that you might end up running out of battery life without the opportunity to charge. There’s nothing worse than been half way through an email and your power supply dying.


Coffee Shop Seating Typically Sucks

Seating not suitable for working – Most coffee shops either have sofa’s or back crippling wooden  chairs. There’s no happy medium. Although a relaxed comfortable sofa can work for a day or so it’s not an ideal working condition. The same applies for those wooden chairs most coffee shops have. Sure they are bearable but for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week your back is going to take some punishment.

Suitable for specific tasks only – I briefly touched upon this earlier but the coffee shop is limited when it comes to what tasks you can perform. Small, cramped tables, one screen and background noise means unless you’re brilliant at blocking out noise you need to use the coffee shop to complete simple tasks.

Cannot control surroundings – The coffee shop is a public place meaning you have no control of what goes on around you. The kid behind you might be playing Angry Birds on his iphone, the man in front of you might be tapping his pen on the table while the ‘Soccer’ Mums to your right may be discussing bra sizes.

Similar to the office your ass belongs to the coffee shop meaning you can quite easily be distracted. In some instances these can be welcome distractions however 60 minutes later the sound of Angry Birds can grate on you slightly.  If you have something time sensitive then I suggest you stay away from the coffee shop or try allocate a quiet zone.

Remember why you escaped the office:

The coffee shop was a real life saver for me. I was feeling isolated and needed to escape the home office and it really worked lift my spirits. At the same time however it made me realise how important my home office was to my remote working beliefs.

The time in the coffee shop made me realise exactly why I escaped the office in the first place. I wanted to create my own way of working, I wanted to remove the distractions, the barriers and the preventions of lifestyle design. The coffee shop doesn’t do this. It doesn’t give me the flexibility of how and when I work, it doesn’t allow me to eat what I want and drink what I want. In the same way you are governed in the office you have the same restrictions and limitations in the coffee shop.

I loved my time in the coffee shop and I will continue to use the coffee shop once a month but I cannot see myself becoming a coffee shop working ball bag anytime soon. The coffee shop has similar strengths and weaknesses to the office environment, the place I escaped 4 months ago. I’m not quite ready for that life again…..

Further Reading:


About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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