Why you work better in coffee shops

It may seem strange, but have you ever noticed people sometimes tend to work better or  be more productive in coffee shops, rather than the office or their own home? Now just wait before you speculate as to why – it may not be for the reason you might be led to believe.


Over recent years, the reason behind why so many people are more productive in coffee shops has gained a lot of attention from the press. Research has shown that moderate levels of ambient noise – anything from the clattering of plates to the whir of a coffee machine – can improve performance on creative tasks.

However, this phenomenon still doesn’t explain why being in a coffee shop filled with noises of people chatting away, relaxing or studying makes us work harder. So, could the real reason people work so effectively in coffee shops have more to do with the people around them, rather than the sounds they are hearing?


Well, it just might be that its more about the people around you than the sounds around you. A recent study suggests that it’s your coffee shop neighbors next to you that are working hard at their laptops that are responsible for your improved performance. Turns out the research also suggests that mental effort is contagious – simply put, this means being around hard-working people is enough to make us work that much harder ourselves.

The discovery when people were actually gathered together and the thoery was actually field-tested. As it turned out, when one person’s task was more difficult, the person next to them worked harder as well even though they couldn’t see what was on their neighbor’s computer screen.

The reasoning behind why this effect occurs isn’t clear, but it could be that a person’s body posture or breathing can influence subtle, unconscious cues.

So perhaps instead of rushing out to get recordings of clinking silverware and random chatter to replicate the coffee shop effect, it might be more helpful to seek out a venue that is simply filled with intelligent, creative and hard working people.

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