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How long is it okay to sit working in a café and use the free WiFi?

28th August 2019

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Recently, I found myself in London with a long gap between meetings, and an urgent piece of work to do.

My deadline was so pressing that I had no choice but to find a café and hop onto its WiFi, even though whenever I do it, somehow I feel as though I’ve just marched into someone’s house and turned on their TV.

Navigating the choppy waters of freelancer-café etiquette makes me anxious, so on this day I did what any right-minded person would do. I asked advice from the oracle that is Twitter At Large:

And here’s what they said:

Samuel Gray (no relation… as far as I know) agreed:

David said:

And Zehra Zaidi commented:

Also adding:

To be quite frank, this prospect fills me with horror, because when I’m working in a café I want to be as invisible as possible, not posting selfies and hashtagging all over the place. But I take her point.

In the end, I went with popular opinion and holed up in a chain café to do the bulk of my work; I bought two drinks and a snack from the outset, and comfortably completed three hours of work. Well done, Twitter!

To sum up, here is Twitter’s accumulated wisdom on the topic:

  • Sit at the smallest table possible for your needs
  • Choose chains over independent coffee shops for very long working stints
  • If you do go to an independent, buy generously
  • Clear out when it’s busy
  • Promote places you use habitually on social media
  • Also, bring them new custom when you can
  • Consider working in a library instead
  • Or a Wetherspoons pub, as they have free refills

Personally, I’m a big fan of my local Caffè Nero, as it has a sign welcoming breastfeeding mothers (which I am also) and they put out jugs of free tap water for punters.

And as for the eternal question: “What should you do with your laptop when you go to the loo?” Why, take it with you of course. This is literally the sole reason I shelled out for a MacBook Air: lightweight, fuss-free, take-to-the-loo-ability.

That said, my favourite place to work is still my box room, where I don’t have to talk to anyone, and the coffee is free.

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