The Coffee Shop Effect



Is the “Coffee Shop” Effect Really a Thing?

Here at Nu, we have a policy that every employee must take a minimum of two days each month to work “from home.” Now, this doesn’t mean we literally require our folks to pack up their laptops and go home twice a month. As the old saying goes (usually in a vastly different context…not that I would know), “ you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” 

Some of our folks really do work from home, but then there are the ones that like to hunker down in a coffee shop somewhere when we know we have 1,394,832,398 (you know, approximately) deadlines to meet and we need to be hyperproductive. I am one of those people. As a writer at Nu, my job requires a lot of focus, so I often get a lot of sky-high eyebrows and high-pitched how-do-you-do-that’s anytime I mention working from a coffee shop. It does seem weird, so I decided to find out why, and it’s called the coffee shop effect. 

What is the coffee shop effect? 

It’s what happens when you swap out your usual office for a bustling coffee shop and you’re suddenly and inexplicably more productive than you are on a typical day in the office. Turns out, it has less to do with sipping fancy caffeine and more to do with the atmosphere. Here’s why.

Changing your location sparks your brain’s need for novelty.

When you see the same people, drink the same coffee, and follow a similar routine day in and day out, your ability to think creatively and find inspiration in your work can get a bit…stale, if you will. A simple change of workplace scenery triggers our brain’s natural craving for novelty, which stimulates the release of dopamine and inspires you to work more productively.

Just the right amount of background noise enhances creativity.

Oddly enough, if it’s too quiet, I’m in trouble. Give me some steaming espresso machines, constant background chatter, and the occasional chatty stranger any day. A 2012 study at the University of British Columbia showed that 70 decibels of ambient sounds – like those you’d hear in a busy coffee shop or popular co-working space – had a positive impact on creativity and focus.

You’re subconsciously encouraged by other folks’ productivity. 

Several studies have shown that by working in close proximity to others you perceive as being productive and focused spurs your own productivity. Similarly, if you’re around a bunch of folks who are goofing off, you’re more likely to be distracted from your work. 

So, as it turns out, if you’re one of the folks who loves the rush of working in a coffee shop, it’s not just a quirk. It’s science!

Enjoy the coffee shop effect with your whole team.

Here’s the thing, you don’t literally have to go to a coffee shop, but you do need a few key features:

  • A new location that sparks creativity
  • That not-too-quiet, not-too-loud atmosphere
  • Plenty of equally focused folks

Beyond the obvious perk of connecting with your people in one space, there are a few perks to investing in a temporary coworking space: 

  • Several studies have shown that changing your location can lead to the “coffee shop effect” that boosts productivity.
  • We have way more space than the typical coffee shop.
  • You can still grab a mocha, a vanilla latte, or a smooth americano from our snazzy espresso machine without waiting in line, paying $5.00 for your coffee, or spilling on yourself in the car on the way to work.

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