News & Politics  |  Shopping

The Dos and Don’ts of Working at a Coffee Shop… And the Best Places in DC to Go

Girls Night In editor Tyler Calder's ten tips to not be the jerk in the java shop.

Photograph by Grant Harder via Flickr Creative Commons.
How to Be Alone

About How to Be Alone

This article is part of our guide on how to be alone in Washington, including secrets to flying solo, our favorite places to pause in solitude, and prominent Washingtonians on how they make time to be alone.

As a freelance writer and content creator, Tyler Calder spends her days working remotely as an editor of Girl’s Night In, meeting interviewees out and about, and exploring with gusto DC’s wide range of coffee spots (look no farther than her Instagram handle for proof). Here, she breaks down what she’s learned and shares her go-to coffee shops.

When to go

I think that the best time to go to a coffee shop is right when they open. I’m a really big fan of the super early morning first-one-in-the-shop vibe. Then you are guaranteed a seat and you can assess what’s available if you need a spot closer to an outlet, or a spot that’s good for meetings, etc.

You can also usually snap a quick picture at that time if it’s a space that you admire and want to capture. That is something that brings me happiness.

Be conscious of space

The most I’ll take up is a two-spot table, but if I can get away with pulling up to a bar, high top, or some sort of community table, then I’ll do that. It’s important to find a coffee shop that has varied seating…you don’t want to feel like you’re taking up too many seats.

Get in with your barista

Even if I’m ordering something simple like my go-to iced coffee, I tip—just as a way to say thank you for either a delicious drink or for creating a space that clearly we love if we’re choosing to work in it.

About camping out all day

I’m comfortable staying for a long period of time if I engage with the space and the product a little bit more. If camping out is on my agenda for the day, I patronize the shop quite a bit and get a breakfast, a lunch, or snacks for lunch, or just coffee until the next meal.

Know the venue

I think it’s understandable when you see a little sign that says, “We don’t do wifi on the weekends so that people can catch up.” Space is limited and real estate is expensive in DC, so I understand them having to put some parameters around what we use the space for. I totally respect that, but if I don’t feel welcome somewhere I probably wouldn’t go back just because there are so many great places out there.

Don’t zone out

Be aware of those around you. Usually, I’ll put just one headphone in. If I have a little bit more elbow room, I’m comfortable putting in two headphones from time to time.

Charge up

I feel like that’s been the biggest lesson of 2018 coffee shop working for me: just to charge all of my electronics the night before. Because the worst feeling to have is when you arrive somewhere and realize you immediately have to plug in. I try to be really cognizant of outlets and cords: just make sure that you’re not tangling anybody up.

Find a work buddy

If you’re posting up somewhere for a while, chances are you’re going have to get up and order or do something like that. It is nice when a coffee shop has that community feel where you feel comfortable asking someone to keep an eye on your computer for a brief moment if you need to step out for a call or run to the restroom.

On taking phone calls

I think it depends on how much elbow room you have around you. Some shops are set up where you’re all in a row and sharing the same space a little bit more. In shops where people are having  conversations, I think it’s totally fine to take a phone call as long as you’re speaking at a volume that somebody would be having a conversation if they were sitting across from you.

Say thanks

I feel really lucky that there are so many coffee shops that are so accessible in DC. You quickly learn where you’re going to grab wifi or get your favorite drink. You also learn where to go that is a little quieter and you can have a conversation, versus a place that has a great playlist where you can really get in the zone. Each one has its own personality and I’ve had a lot of fun exploring, navigating, and figuring out what I like each coffee shop for.

Tyler’s favorites:


Assistant Editor

Hayley is an Associate Editor at Washingtonian Weddings. Previously she was the the Style Editor at The Local Palate, a Southern food culture magazine based out of Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow her on instagram @wandertaste.