Coffee Shop Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts for Digital Nomads

Source: Unsplash | Austin Distel

As a digital nomad, you probably spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Not because (hopefully) you’re addicted to caffeine and would stop at almost nothing to get another peppermint mocha or caramel ribbon crunch frappuccino. But rather because you find it enjoyable, productive, and sometimes simply necessary to escape your home office and hang out in an environment with other human beings, instead of your plants and pets.

Now, at the dawn of the public Wi-Fi age — we’re talking circa 2000 or so — coffee shops loved digital nomads. In fact, they loved them so much, that they used to advertise free Wi-Fi as a way to get as many digital nomads as possible into their environment. Why? Because it was good for business! Indeed, it was a lot better to have a coffee shop populated by laptop-toting professionals — like an accountant for solar power installation company, an HR manager for a classic car restoration shop, an entrepreneur starting a new online business, and so on — than it was to have empty chairs and tables.

However, things have changed considerably since then. Today, some coffee shops (like this one) have actually gotten rid of Wi-Fi, because they are overrun by digital nomads all day, every day. According to the owners of these stores, the reason for killing Wi-Fi is to make the environment more social. In other words, they don’t like the optics of a bunch of people wearing earbuds and going heads down on their laptops. But as far as I’m concerned, the real reason is the big one: money. Digital nomads aren’t as profitable as they used to be, and some of them aren’t as polite as they used to be either.

So, that brings us to the topic of etiquette. Whether you’re a new digital nomad or a grizzled veteran of the remote work landscape (and you have a vast collection of perished laptop batteries at home to prove it), here are some do’s and don’ts to make things better for you and your fellow virtual professionals:


  • Do buy something at least once every two hours. If you’re not in the mood for more caffeine (because you’d like to get to sleep sometimes in the next month or so), and if you’re not hungry, then get something that you can snack on later.
  • Do choose the smallest table available. If you need to sit at a larger table or booth that is designed for 4 or more people, then every now and then scan the room and see if you can move.
  • Do greet the server or barista in a warm and friendly way. Demonstrate that you’re one of the “good” digital nomads who has great manners. A little courtesy goes a long way, and besides, it’s just the right way to behave.


  • Don’t monopolize the precious power outlets. If you’re all charged up (or have enough of a charge to get your work done), then try and sit somewhere else, so that someone who really needs an outlet can use it. Otherwise, those digital nomads are likely to leave — which means the coffee shop loses a customer.
  • Don’t make loud business phone calls. Take the call outside or in your car. Loud business calls can be super-irritating to other customers, and can compel them to get up and leave.
  • Don’t stare down and give the “evil eye” to non-digital nomad customers who are laughing, debating, or doing what people in coffee shops have done for centuries. Remember: it’s not an office.

The Bottom Line

Digital nomads like you who keep the above do’s and don’ts in mind will definitely help make the landscape better for all of us who need or want to work outside of our home office — if not every day, then at least once in a while.

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