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Productivity: Get a boost by telecommuting with a cup of joe

coffee telecommuting

Last week, I did something different.

I packed up my laptop and left my apartment. I jumped in my trusty little SUV and made my way to the nearest coffee shop.

It was a change of pace from the dead silence of my house, which I sometimes break up with a Songza station or a Friends episode on Netflix.

People were chatting around me, smartphones were beeping, beans were grinding and milk was steaming.

I zipped through my writing in record time. Was it the ambient noises forcing me to focus more on my work? Was it the desire to get back to my Fortress of Solitude?

A 2012 study out of University of Chicago tested how ambient noises impacts creativity. The researchers played soundtracks at a variety of volumes and asked subjects to answer questions related to their creativity.

Ambient noise set to 70 decibels — the level most often found in coffee shops — led to 35 per cent improvement on creativity and productivity levels.

It isn’t just the noise levels that can promote creativity. The simple act of breaking out of your routine can spark the fire in your brain.

Wesley Verhoeve, the founder of Family Records and, writes about the intersection of life and technology at Fast Company.

He says working out of coffee shops was so positive that he made sure to make it a routine.

“Even in the most awesome offices we can fall into a routine, and a routine is the enemy of creativity,” he says. “Changing your environment, even for just a day, brings new types of input and stimulation, which in turn stimulates creativity and inspiration.”

He also found less distractions at the coffee shop.

“Being surrounded by awesome team and officemates means being interruped for water cooler chats and work questions,” Verhoeve writes. “Being interrupted kills productivity. The coffee shop environment combines the benefit of anonymity with the dull buzz of exciting activity.”

Now, one must take care in making coffee-shop telecommuting a habit.

Always buy something, leave the conference calls and web conferences for when you’re at home, don’t stay too long, don’t hog space and be a friendly human being. After all, you never know who you might be sitting next to … a potential client or partner, perhaps?

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the occasional surge of people seeking out their java fix. The University of Chicago researchers learned that very high noise levels can reduce information processing and creativity.

That must have been why I felt it necessary to hightail it out of there when the lunch crowd started to trickle in.

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