What should you know about the behavior norms of conducting business at coffee shops or coworking spaces?

1. Tone it down.

Before taking a phone call or setting up a meeting at a coffee shop, consider whether you will be discussing sensitive information, or information specific to a client that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with others hearing. Believe it or not, we can get a little comfortable at coffee shops and not realize that others can, and will, hear us.

Formal presentations or anything that will require large amounts of room are not well suited for a coffee shop or restaurant, unless you have a reserved space or have requested this sort of space ahead of time.

coworking etiquette
The benefits of working from a virtual office is that it helps me stay connected with the community downtown. The atmosphere and interaction with other people keeps me creative.

When you do go forward with having a group meeting at a coffee shop or in an open space at a coworking space, control your volume.

At a coworking space, grab a side room or private space. “If you are working in a coworking space with break-out rooms, remember you are not the only one that may have to use that room so be cognizant of the time you hold the room,” addsKerry Conaty, Director of Operations at MedaCheck. Kerry has worked at and for Cintrifuse–a Cincinnati coworking space that offers services and support to startups, entrepreneurs, developers, designer and innovators–for more than a year.

When it comes to taking phone calls in shared desk spaces, it’s ideal to head for a hallway or a private room. “Even if you are speaking in a low tone, taking the call away from other people is important,” adds Kerry.

When it comes to doing conference calls from a coffee shop in particular, avoid putting other call-in members on speaker phone. Also, consider the people on the other end of your conference call. Often times, ambient noise and background music comes through very loud! If you do decide to have meetings (or the inevitable impromptu phone call), headphones definitely help—for you, the other people in the café, and those on the other end of the conversation.

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Don’t be a squatter! Buy something when you’re at a retail space.

If the line is too long and will cut in to meeting time, squat in good conscience. Any traveler or virtual worker who loves coffee shops know it’s a fair trade off: getting something to eat or drink at your place of choice, while you use the shop’s WiFi.

Coworking and coffee shop etiquette
Consistently abiding by virtual office etiquette helps us as flexible workers still represent our company as best as possible.


Next, don’t hog all the electrical outlets for an extended period of time. If you’re alone, try to take up minimal space (not the largest table and all its chairs), especially in busy times of the day. I charge my Macbook before I leave for Coffee Emporium so I’m not forced to sit by an outlet when I arrive.

Even though many people are working during the day at coffee shops, when you’re at a coworking space, you have to be especially respectful and conscientious of other people’s space and work routine. “You never know if the people you may be interrupting are having a confidential or private conversation—where a private room may not have been available. Think twice before interrupting, especially if you are unsure of their working style.”

After any meet-up or work session, it’s fair to guess you may have a bit of trash. Be sure to take care of your trash or any mess you may have made. Others will notice your behavior, either way.

3. Don’t be rude!

Many people know the social context associated with someone having their headphones in when they are in front of a computer: it’s a cue they are busy working, so it is best to avoid interrupting them. But what’s socially acceptable when it comes to interacting with others at a coffee shop? Generally, I prefer to smile and engage in small conversations with others when we make eye contact. As for coworking spaces, you have to gauge each person and company.

While some of us thrive talking to everyone in a coworking space, others prefer to be left alone. “Everyone has their own style,” just as they would in a traditional office, says Kerry.

“Some people do want the social aspect and the benefits of that at a coworking space. If you do want that daily interaction then yes, in the mornings, you can extend a, ‘How are you doing?’ There really can be a lot of talk around the ‘water cooler.’”

In the end, much of the etiquette that goes along with working from a place other than the traditional office simply comes down to being considerate, and using common sense.

This blog was written by Kim Sykes
Kim Sykes

READ MORE: If you liked this post, you might like “Lessons from 2014’s Inc 500 Growth Companies

Kim Sykes is a marketer and content creator at Edoc Service, Inc., a total virtual company.