Securing Your Laptop

How remote workers secure electronics in public – SOLVED

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You’ve been remote working at the coffee shop for the past 2 hours. You just polished off the last sip of your iced latte.

Then nature calls. What do you do with your electronics?

We’ve all been faced with the frustrating dilemma of whether to leave our electronics unattended at the table you are occupying or pack them up when nature calls. As remote workers, our laptops and electronics are our lifeblood and without them, we’re out of business.

After researching this topic and interviewing many fellow remote workers, below are the top recommended strategies remote workers can take when nature calls in the coffee shop.

Take your chances and leave your things

There’s always the scenario where you can leave your items unattended and just go to the bathroom. There are a few risks with this scenario. The most obvious risk is theft. As you can see in the video below, this remote worker in Berkely, CA had his laptop stolen right in front of him.

There are exceptions to this.  Depending on where you are working in the world, you may be able to get away with taking a chance to leave your electronics unattended while going to the restroom.

One remote worker discusses his experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Locals from Chiang Mai typically step out for long lunch breaks or phone calls and leave their electronics unattended. In this part of the world, crime is extremely low. He personally feels comfortable stepping away from his table briefly to go to the bathroom.

Use your best judgement here. This next strategy, though, is a hybrid of taking the risk of leaving it.

Ask a nearby stranger to watch your things

Another remote worker discusses this psychological trick. If you have to leave briefly for a restroom break in a coffee shop, try asking a stranger to briefly watch your things.

Based on a 1972 study called “The Beach Blanket Study”, this research suggests that only 5% of strangers watching your things won’t stop the theft.

A researcher set up 56 fake thefts to happen at Jones Beach in New York. A research assistant would lay a blanket next to a family or individual at the beach and play a portable radio for 2-minutes. She would then ask the person next to her to watch her things while she went for a swim.

While the item lay on the blanket unattended, another research assistant would come by and attempt to steal the radio. 95% of the people that agreed to watch the radio during her swim attempted to stop the thief.

Maybe that strategy would work. Does anyone have any experience trying this? Comment below if so.

Pack your things up, but how can you save your table?

I live in a very populated area and at times space is at a premium in coffee shops. If I am able to score a table, there will typically be 5-6 vultures waiting for me to step away to take my spot!

One remote worker discusses the same challenge, but has a decent strategy to reserve his spot. Whenever he needs to get up to go to the restroom, he packs up his expensive electronics, but he will leave a few items at the table that are of low value. A notebook, a cheap pair of sunglasses or a water bottle.

Psychologically, people will be less inclined to occupy your table when you leave because they will not want to face confrontation upon your return.

Kensington Lock Basic
Kensington Lock

Kensington Cable Locks

This is my favorite example. I discovered this product through a remote working friend of mine who uses Kensington Cable Locks to secure his laptop while he works in coffee shops. These come in a few different varieties depending on your laptop.
The most basic and universal lock is the Kensington Cable Lock with key and t-bar. If your laptop has the appropriate slot on the side for a lock, this is a really good and inexpensive option to protect your laptop. Simply insert the t-bar into the slot, turn the key and tie the cable around something sturdy such as a table leg. These seem to range from $15-$30 on Amazon. Check them out here.

Kensington Lock for Thinner Laptops

If you’re like me, though, you will need a different type of Kensington Cable Lock that is designed for thinner laptops such as the MacBook Air or other ultrabooks. With this device, your laptop docks underneath it and the arms on the left and right come across the top part of your keyboard. Once you lock it in place, you can wrap the cable around something sturdy like the other model. At the time of writing this, the Kensington Laptop Locking Station was around $60. Here is a link to Amazon to see more specs.


Obviously, there is no foolproof way to protect your electronics or your table space at a coffee shop, but there are certainly ways to reduce the risk of theft. If you live in a good area, maybe you can take your chances. If not, try asking a stranger to watch your things who 95% of them will keep your electronics protected. If all else fails, invest in a laptop locking device such as the Kensington models discussed above.

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There are 1 comments

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    I had this happen before. I was going to ask the barista if she could watch my laptop but decided to just go home. I just ordered the Kensington you linked in your article and should get it in a couple days. I had never heard of this before! I’m pretty excited to give it a shot! Thanks!


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