My Working-from-a-cafe setup

My new job is in Boston, but I’m only there one week a month. The rest of the time I work from my house or out and about in various coffee shops, libraries, or other handy places. Right now I’m writing this blog post while having lunch at Tropical Grill.

I’m lucky enough to have a home office–it’s a downstairs fourth bedroom that was converted into a den by the previous owners with one wall opened up to the living room. It’s a decent place to work from even though the open wall means it can be noisy at times, but sometimes both my wife and I need me to get out of the house to work for the day. It’s better for our collective sanity.

Because of this and because when I’m at HQ working from whatever desk/table is available, I wanted to invest some time and money into making sure I have a comfortable remote work setup. I’ve spent many hours writing fiction hunched over my laptop and dealing with neck or back aches as my body rebels against “the hunch”. The key to good ergonomics when mobile is to have a way to get your laptop display at eye height so you don’t have to hunch. For me, this means using a laptop stand and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Doing this will invite stares and conversation at the local cafe, but as an extrovert I have no problems with that.

Here’s my setup:

  • Laptop – I use the 13” MacBook Pro my employer provides
  • iPad Pro – I have the 1st-generation 12.9” iPad Pro–it’s excellent for all of the normal iPad-y stuff, but my main work use is as a second display using the Duet app
  • USB-C to Lightning Cable – this isn’t included with my MacBook or iPad, but it’s essential for the second display, pairing the mouse/keyboard, and fast charting my iPad/iPhone
  • Roost stand – This is an expensive ($75) portable laptop stand that is very light and compact. It’s great to keep your laptop at eye-height to avoid back/neck repetitive stress injuries
  • Magic Keyboard – if you have your laptop on a stand, you’ll need an external keyboard–this one is portable and nice to type with, even if it doesn’t come in space gray without a number pad
  • Fintie Keyboard Case – this case holds my Magic Keyboard securely and can also hold up an iPad or iPhone at a good writing angle; when I’m getting distracted while trying to write, I like to fire up Ulysses on my iPhone and use it with this stand/case
  • Magic Mouse – I’m still getting used to this mouse, but so far, so good (Some of the gestures are great, some are annoying when I accidentally trigger them)
  • Active Noise Canceling (ANC) Headphones – right now I’m using Plantronics Bluetooth headphones. They’re not as good as Bose QC35s or Sony MX3s, but they have great noise-isolating microphones for frequent calls
  • Notebook – mine is a Jibun Techo planner and Idea blank notebook in a leather traveler’s journal cover (here’s a guide)

The next iteration

Of course, that’s just the current setup. There are still a few things I’m tinkering with, and I’m thinking about adding these to my system:

  • Screen Privacy Filter – these are great for keeping prying eyes away from what you’re doing, especially since with my stand I’m doing it on a pedestal
  • Mountie+ Tablet Mount – This is a fancy clip that you can use to mount your iPad (even the big 12.9″ one) to the side of your MacBook without damaging either (I’m a bit hesitant to use it with the laptop stand, but Roost support assures me it is fine)
  • Purple Portable Chair Cushion – You may not have noticed, but the chairs at most cafes are not designed for long-term sitting

Schlepping it all around

This is a lot of gear, but it fits just fine in my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack. I put the mouse and all charging cables in my Peak Design Tech Pouch and the other items (stand, headphones) come with a case. It weighs about the same as I remember my books in school weighing. I usually throw in my Zojirushi travel mug and a packable rain jacket as well. By the way, you should know all of these links are Amazon affiliate links, so if you use them I get a few bucks for my beer/book fund.

Did I forget anything important?

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