This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Why Working In A Cafe Is Good for Creativity

It might be time to rethink your working space.
When we're stimulated by sights and sounds, our mood lifts and we become more innovative.
When we're stimulated by sights and sounds, our mood lifts and we become more innovative.

We're supposed to do our 'best work' from our office but this isn't always easy when many work places are dull; saturated in greys and browns and as quiet as a church on a Monday.

When it comes to stimulating your brain, research suggests that your best work might be achieved within the walls of your favourite café.

An experiment from the University of British Columbia recently looked at the impact of background noise on creativity and innovation. People were split into four groups according to high noise, medium noise, low noise and silence. The participants were then asked to work as sounds were played around them, similar to the sounds of a real cafe, with voices and music.

What the study found was that those in the medium noise group (70 decibels – which is what you'd hear in a busy cafe) were able to perform significantly better on a creative problem solving task than those in the low, high or silent groups.

Dr Amantha Imber from Inventium told The Huffington Post Australia the success of your innovation depends on how likely those around you are to adopt new innovations.

Background noise can help you focus on your work and boost creativity.
Background noise can help you focus on your work and boost creativity.

"Some major organisations have been utilising this finding about background noise. Companies such as Google, Mars, and Facebook have moved to a campus style set up where there are plenty of casual but moderately noisy areas to work from without having to leave the office," Dr Imber said.

"If your company is yet to adopt such an approach, you could at least move your laptop to the lunch room for when you're working on projects requiring your creativity."

Lorraine Murphy from The Remarkables Group told Huffpost Australia the energy in cafes is contagious.

'In terms of new faces and surroundings, the variety is so stimulating. There are also no colleagues or bosses around making interruptions! I love working from a cafe when I have a new business concept I'm working on. The change of scene helps me think more creatively and outside of the parameters I might impose on my thinking when I'm working in the office or at home," Murphy said.

Lorraine Murphy from The Remarkables Group
Lorraine Murphy from The Remarkables Group

"I'd advise business people to get out of the office and get inspired. I rarely get my best ideas/insights when I'm sitting at my desk. Instead they come when I have no time pressures - so when I'm enjoying a walk outdoors, checking out a new cafe or a gallery. I recently visited the Archibald Prize and came back invigorated with new ideas and clarity around my business."

Author Tara Marks works well in a noisy environment. She told HuffPost Australia the noise helps her focus on her writing and stimulates her mind in a way that transfers to her characters.

"Someone's laugh can be transposed onto paper, a bright colour can stimulate my mind to add it to a scene where I might be struggling to find just the perfect shade. Even something as small as how someone folds their hands underneath their chin will spark inspiration as to whether my character is shy or thoughtful or they have a certain mannerism that will come alive in my writing," Marks said.

Tara Marks' Tips For Writers

  • If you're someone who normally works in a quiet area I would suggest possibly taking a far corner and Cafe while you write and just concentrate on the words on the paper. Relaxing and just letting the words flow as the sounds become muted in the background allows you to have the benefits of being around a noisy setting when you're writing and not letting it be a distraction.
  • Taking in the sounds, the colors, the smells, and how people interact with each other can be all inspirations, whether it be scenes or characters. I tend to open my senses and think of describing the parts of the cafe that work best for what I am writing.
  • Listening to how people talk, how they have a accent, the speed of their speech or how they crumple a napkin while reading a book are all great details to capture. Watching interactions between individuals is fantastic and can be transposed into your characters.
  • Even if you can't concentrate enough to put out an entire scene, you could build parts of a scene or their characters that they can integrate it later on, so it's very good for writer's block if you're experiencing that.
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