The Science Behind Why You Like Working From Coffee Shops

There is scientific evidence pointing to why working from different environments feels good.

Sometimes, I find myself feeling the urge to go work somewhere different for the day. I live in New York City, so there's a never-ending selection of great coffee shops nearby. Parks, coworking spaces, and other unconventional workspaces too. I never stopped to ask myself why I enjoy it so much. After all, it's not for the coffee -- I could just make myself a nice cup of joe at home. And it's not for meeting new people either. I hardly ever say anything the whole day besides, "Do you know the wifi password?". So I set out to find the answer to the "coffice" phenomenon. As it turns out, a whole bunch of researchers asked the same question. There is scientific evidence pointing to why working from different environments feels good. Not only that, but doing so also boosts your creativity, memory, brainstorming, and productivity.

1. Ambient noises can spark creativity

It all starts with background noise. Researchers at University of Chicago studied the links between noise distraction and creativity. The researchers conducted five experiments, involving over 300 people. They compared the effectiveness of thinking with various levels of background noise. The results showed that people with moderate ambient noise level scored higher on tests. Their peers rated them as being more creative. They also said, "moderate level of ambient noise is likely to induce processing difficulty. This activates abstract cognition and so enhances creative performance". It seems that moderate doses of distraction force the mind to be more creative. This means busy coffee shops are ideal because that aren't completely quiet. They have a noticeable level of hustle and bustle, are ideal. If you don't live near such a place, try out the Coffitivity or Noisli. These apps provide artificial ambient noise that you adjust to your liking.

2. Get movin'

The creativity begins before you even get to the coffee shop. A study from Stanford has shown that the two-legged step helps get creative juices flowing. Participants increased their creative output by 60 percent after walking. They came up with more ideas that were both unique and appropriate to the situation. "Four experiments show that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after... Walking opens up the free flow of ideas. It is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and [exercise]." Stuck solving problems or want to get inspired right before a big meeting? Just take a walk through the park. This is also something Steve Jobs did when brainstorming big decisions at Apple.

3. Occasionally, climb a tree

Why stop at walking and sitting when you can climb? Do child-like activities, such as climbing a tree, coloring a book, or surfing. They were found by the University of North Florida to drastically improve memory. A well oiled brain could make it easier to learn a new language or balance work tasks with grace. "Improving working memory can have a beneficial effect on so many areas in our life. It's exciting to see that [such] activities can enhance it," says one of the researchers. If you want to test this out, you can head to Central Park to climb a tree, or to Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge. This world-famous climbing gym now also includes coworking space in its membership plan. After a climbing session, you can put your creativity to the test.

4. Seriously, just any type of increased stimulus is good

Researchers at the University of California took a look at a bunch of workspace environments used by mobile workers, and found that the spaces with more stuff to look at, odors to smell (good ones!), and textures to feel are the most effective in bringing out your inner artist. They created a three part framework: "The framework explores three functions of workplace design. One is instrumental functions, such as improving decision making and inter-group collaboration. Second is symbolic functions, such as affirming individual distinctiveness and group status. Third is aesthetic functions, such as allowing for desired sensory experiences [at a place]. This framework illustrates how organizations can capitalize on all three. All from using office décor and layout." Changing what you see, smell, feel and hear can make you more creative. You can have better ideas and increase focus on tasks. ​ So there you have it. Change your workspace location. Swing by the coffee shop on the way to your next client. Get up and take a walk. There's ample evidence they foster an environment of innovation and productivity. Furthermore, coffee shops are already a natural combination of these needs. They have sensory increase and moderate noise. They force you to get up out of your chair (or bed) to get there. Dave Idell co-founded Croissant, a passport membership to over 40 coworking spaces around NYC. To get instant access to increased productivity on the go: www.getcroissant.com

CONVERSATIONS