My go-to cafés to work from in London
Because working from home alone is soul destroying
So I’ve been feeling pretty stir crazy today, I’ve spent the last three days working from home by myself at my kitchen table trying to get through a huge to-do list. And it’s been hell.
I hate being by myself for this long. Don’t get me wrong, I love alone time when I really need to get something done or to recharge after busy periods. but when I’m faced with it three days in a row, I start to go a little crazy and feel super lonely like this guy…
Is it me, or is it just so boring? It makes me start to miss even those annoying people in the office, because you know, at least I could have a bloody conversation with them. I used to crave working form home and now I just find it stunts my creativity — I’ve no-one to bounce ideas around with or to hold me accountable to the tasks I’ve committed to doing that day (by the way this blog post was not on my to-do list…procrastination much…) I just don’t think it’s healthy for us to spend so much time alone — we’re social creatures, right?!
“Why don’t you just go to a coworking space?”
Ah I hear you. Well, they’re effing expensive for one — have you seen their prices?! There’s no way you can afford to shell out £350 + per month for a coworking space when you’re first starting out… Most new businesses are lucky to make a profit in their first year so I’ve no idea how we’re suposed to afford these extortionate rates London coworking spaces are charging… And secondly, quite frankly most of them remind me of being in a corporate office, except we’re just working by oursleves because no-one really talks to each other…
“What about online groups? Or Skype?”
Yes, I use both these things to help me bounce ideas around with people or at least feel like I’ve had some form of human contact. And that’s great. But it’s really not the same. You don’t get the same energy, body language cues or just actual connection that you get when you sit down face to face with someone.
“You could just go to a café…”
Again, I do this too but loitering in a café for 8 hours buying only a coffee and a sandwich makes me feel a little guilty. Plus, they’re still not necessarily particularly social places depending on the crowd and it’s hard to ask a random stranger if you could just sense check an email with them…
Now, this isolating, bored, stifling feeling (and cost factor) is the reason I’m launching one-off, affordable events that bring people who run businesses by themselves together to spend the day away from their emails and their stifling environments. And instead spend time with likeminded people in awesome venues, with the headspace to be creative, work on new business ideas and bounce ideas around to their heart’s content. Oh and there’s coffee, great food and optional aperitifs after :) Each event will have a different theme to help you grow the impact you’re trying to have with your biz.
I see this as one small way I can help to solve this problem which is all well and good but I know one one-off event each month only goes so far to solve the problem (the first one launches on 27 June). So in the meantime, I’ve put together a list of five of my go-to cafés in London to work from. So, if you’re feeling like me, at least you can get out the house and enjoy some random chatter with strangers, and who knows: if enough of you read this and check them out, maybe you might meet each other there! How cool would that be…?
1. Fleet Street Press (Fleet Street & Chancery Lane)
A go-to mainly because it was introduced to me by my best friend (and Aussie lady) as one of the first coffee places I ever went to in London. Plus you can usually always get a seat (they have a basement down at Fleet Street).
Coffee: Pretty good — sometimes a little bitter.
Dairy alternatives (because I try to avoid dairy): Yes — oat and almond and soy if I remember correctly!
Wifi: Excellent, never had any problems.
Seating: A mix of chairs and counches with low tables, normal level tables and a high bar and stools.
Food: A selection of breakfast options, sandwiches and cakes (including GF).
Staff: Friendly, helpful and don’t kick you out if you’ve been in there a while.
Crowd: A mix! It’s near chambers and the Royal Courts of Justice so you often get a fair few students, lawyers etc but also some freelancers!
Bread & Butter (Haggerston)
Another favourite because I used to live around the corner! But it makes it on the list because it has a range of seating and it’s always got space :) Bonus points for being open from 7am to 7pm!
Coffee: Easy to drink. Not the most flavoursome.
Dairy alternatives: Yes — almond and soy, I believe.
Wifi: Perfectly fine!
Seating: A mix of normal tables and chairs and a small counch area with low tables.
Food: A selection of breakfast options, sandwiches, wraps and cakes (including GF). Also sell various other kitchen cupboard goodies :) A good range available.
Staff: Friendly, helpful and don’t kick you out if you’ve been in there a while.
Crowd: East London freelancers — the last time I was there, almost everyone had a laptop or a book!
Exmouth Coffee Company (Aldgate East)
Introdcued to me by a friend really recently but I love the selection of food and cakes on display so it makes it on the list! It’s also pretty central to the City in Aldgate East and close to General Assembly so you can kill time before one of their free events in there!
Coffee: Not too strong but flavoursome.
Wifi: Haven’t ever used it too much here but for what I needed (emails) it was fine.
Dairy alternatives: Yes.
Seating: A mix of high tables and stools and small tables. All tables are quite small.
Food: Delicious looking wraps, tortillas, sandwiches as well as sweet treats, inclusing a few healthy options. Good range.
Staff: Friendly and polite. Chat to you and will remember your face.
Crowd: Quite varied — tourists, City workers and freelancers.
The Hoxton Hotel (Holborn & Shoreditch)
Now I wouldn’t rate the coffee here but you can get away with being here for hours. It’s basically set up for freelancers at both locations and that’s pretty much the main crowd so lots of opportunity to strike up a conversation with the people next to you.
Coffee: Not fantastic (see above)
Wifi: Amazingly, perfectly good despite the huge number of people on it!
Dairy alternatives: Yes — almond and coconut.
Seating: Varied — some actual desks, coaches, lounge chairs with tables, dining type tables and small stools.
Food: Breakfast, lunch and dinner! It’s decent food, with a wide selection but overpriced.
Staff: Friendly and polite. A little slow but they are tending to a LOT of freelancers ordering one coffee every two hours…
Crowd: Freelancer central. Also used for business meetings quite a bit. Lots of students too.
The Coffee Works Project (Blackfriars, Lendenhall & Islington)
I love this place — it’s got great coffee, they were the first people to introduce me to oat milk (yum) and the staff are great! Food is tasty too — simple but tasty.
Coffee: Yum and easy to drink.
Wifi: I have to admit I’ve not used it…
Dairy alternatives: Yes — oat, rice I believe and soy.
Seating: Varied depending on the location. Blackfriars have a mix of traditional chairs and tables whereas Islington has a mix of couches, long sharing tables and little mini tables. I haven’t been to Ledenhall, I’m afraid.
Food: Sandwiches are available along with cakes and treats. Small selection.
Staff: Super friendly and happy to chat :)
Crowd: Again, mixed depending on the location. More business meetings at Blackfriars but Islington is home to students / freelancers.
And if you’ve made it this far, yes I realise this would have been better with photos, and I’m sorry, but it was sort of an impromptu must-rant blog post!
Want to be part of an amazing community of small business owners? I’m building events, workshops and workcations to help people running purpose-driven businesses by themselves to connect and collaborate to grow their impact in the best way possible. Join us over at www.hellostephslack.com.