Why It’s Easier to Focus in a Coffee Shop Than in Your Office
Finding it hard to focus in the modern open office setup is a common problem. While you’re not staring at drab cubicle walls all day, the open office model allows for countless distractions. For some, the only way to actually get things done is to leave the office and work from a coffee shop. It may sound strange, but research shows that workers are able to focus more intently on their job in a bustling coffee shop than from their office. And it’s not because of that double cappuccino they’re sipping on.
While previous research showed that workers were distracted by noise in general while in the office, the Harvard Business Review reports that new studies suggest that noise may not be the problem—it’s the people who are making the noise. A study conducted in the Journal of Consumer Research found that the just right amount of ambient noise can actually be conducive to more creative thinking. Of course, there may be the same levels of noise in an average office as there are in a coffee shop, but because most workers want or feel compelled to engage in office conversations, those noises act as a distraction. Essentially, the white noise present in cafe-like spaces (the whir of a coffee grinder, the chatter of friends catching up, or low music) produce an environment that can trigger your brain to loosen up and thus think creatively; on the other hand, being in an open office exposes you distractions from package deliveries to group announcements to your coworkers whispering at their desk clump. Constantly being interrupted from your workflow is without a doubt preventing your most creative thoughts from being realized.
Some employers try to make their open workspaces more like coffee shops, offering employees hang-out spaces in parts of the building with more comfortable seating and non-office decor. The idea is on the right track—focusing on work away from your desk may prevent certain distractions—however, you're still not safe from chatty coworkers entering the space, bringing the latest office gossip along with them.
While putting on headphones is a good way to drown out the noise from outside your office on a regular basis, when you’re working on a big creative project, it may still be best to brainstorm in a coffee shop for an hour or so. Tell your boss you have the science to back you up.