2012-03-14

Co.Exist

Why Ditching The Office Could Help You Be More Creative

The quiet, workman-like atmosphere of your office is actually not making your brain work as hard as it could. A little noise can go a long way toward getting you better ideas.

Researchers have shown that a flexible schedule helps employees be healthier, happier, and more productive. If your boss still isn’t convinced that you should work wherever you want, here’s some more evidence to bolster your case: A study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that working in coffee shops and other moderately noisy places boosts creativity.

The University of British Columbia researchers involved in the study asked over 300 participants to work on creative tasks—thinking of all the possible uses for a brick, imagining how a mattress company could make its product better, playing word association games—in nearly silent, moderately loud (70 decibels, or about what you would expect in a coffee shop), and very loud environments.

Not only did the participants in the moderately loud environment do better on the creativity tests, they also were hailed as being more creative by their peers. These participants also did better on word association tests.

The researchers explain in the paper: "A high level of noise may cause a great deal of distraction, causing individuals to process information to a lesser extent and therefore to exhibit lower creativity. A moderate (vs. low) level of noise, however, is expected to distract people without significantly affecting the extent of processing. Further, we reason that such a moderate distraction, which induces processing difficulty, enhances creativity by prompting abstract thinking."

There are downsides to working in coffee shops. That moderately loud noise level isn’t ideal for making business calls, the wireless networks are often unreliable, and outlets can be scarce, especially in telecommuter-heavy cities where every coffee shop is packed to capacity by 9 a.m.

Coworking spaces are a happy medium for many people. They’re often a bit noisier than the average office but still offer all the amenities necessary for a productive day of work. But if you’re just in need of a brainstorming session, the local coffee shop is probably the best—and cheapest—place to go.

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