By Jonathan F. Rice

It’s hard to get work done at home.

As comfortable as it is, an apartment or house is also full of distractions, from heavy metal-loving roommates, to chore-comparing significant others to that household project you’ve been putting off. As a working professional and graduate student in San Francisco, I find that while I can get work done at home, I’m most productive and creative when I change my space.

While cafes are not the best work environment if you prefer absolute silence, to me the right cafe can be incredibly conducive to effective productivity, offering a welcoming environment, a sense of life and energy, and, always, a steady stream of good caffeine.

As a big city, San Francisco seems to have a ton of options for cafes. However, not every cafe offers just the right mixture of environment, wi-fi, strong coffee, and personality. Here are my top three cafes for getting stuff done across the city. Whether it’s writing a paper, coming up with a new personal project, reading, or something else, these three cafes spread out across San Francisco will serve you well:

If you’re downtown, in the Financial District…

Workshop Cafe, 180 Montgomery Street, Hours: M-F 6 am to 10 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am to 10 pm

Workshop Cafe is for professionals. What earns Workshop Cafe a spot in my top three is its emphasis on creating the most conducive space for effectively working. Designed in the same vein as shared co-working office spaces such as WeWork, Workshop Cafe has a small open seating area in the front, but once you step past the threshold you find a very large space with all different types of reserved seating, plentiful outlets and a lively but focused Spotify soundtrack ranging from the lyrical precision of Kendrick Lamar to the beats of Fatboy Slim. The excellent healthy food options are a huge plus (all of the grain bowls fantastic) and the Stumptown coffee keeps you alert.

The main differentiating factor of Workshop Cafe is that it’s not free. Beyond food and drink, you’ll pay $3 an hour or more to work in the cafe. However, this means you get access to a reserved seat of your choice, remarkably fast and reliable wi-fi, and start-up-like resources such as whiteboards and conference rooms. While the hourly fee makes this the priciest cafe on this list, the money spent means that you’ll have an incentive to stop scrolling through your Instagram feed and start using your talents to change the world–or just turn in that assignment on time.

If you’re in Hayes Valley…

Mercury Cafe, 201 Octavia Street, Hours: M-W 7 am to 5 p, Th-F 7 am to 8 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am to 5 pm

It’s all about those strawberry scones. Entering Mercury Cafe in Hayes Valley, you’ll find an open setting with plentiful seating (though it can fill up early on weekends) with outlets under almost every seat and wall decorations ranging from music posters to original artwork for sale depending on the day. The front of the cafe is made up of giant windows that look out onto the street and are often fully open on weekends, making for a bright space that keeps you motivated for hours without feeling guilty that you’re inside doing work.

Did I mention the scones? Each day, the staff bakes fresh scones using seasonal fruits and fillings, from sublimely sweet locally sourced strawberries and blackberries to savory jalapeno-cheddar. The Four Barrel coffee at Mercury might not satisfy those seeking artisanal drinks, but for getting work done they have perfectly good lattes, pour-overs, and cold brew, and the lunch menu is impressive as well, from a satisfying salami sandwich with meats from Molinari’s to a vegetarian chili that my friends swear by.

If you’re in the Richmond, in the Avenues…

Home, 2018 Clement Street, Hours: M-F 7 am to 5 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am to 5 pm

At Home, it’s all about a combination of aesthetic and service. A new outpost of a beloved cafe in the Sunset district, Home on Clement has some of the best coffee drinks in the Richmond. Accordingly, you might need to get there on the earlier side to get a table, but once you do you’ll find a neighborhood-driven space with a curated menu and staff who truly want to make you feel welcome.

Home meets the baseline test of outlets, wi-fi, and coffee, but then goes beyond with their inventive menu options and pleasing physical space. Outside of being a great spot to do work, Home is most well known for their brag-worthy lattes and avocado toasts, from the ribbon of rainbow vanilla “birthday” latte to a sample of different toasts made with ingredients such as kimchi and bacon. Thanks to the skilled baristas, the straightforward coffee drinks are great too. A teeny succulent on each table just adds the right touch of natural environment.

What are your favorite cafes for getting work done in San Francisco?

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