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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Why are we more productive when we work in coffee shops?

UC Davis students discuss the “coffee shop phenomenon”


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


Picture yourself in your ideal studying environment: you’re in a workflow; your headphones are on; your devices are charged and nothing can stop you. No matter where you are picturing yourself, it is no secret that everyone has a preferred place to get their work done, whether it’s their room, in the library or in a bustling coffee shop. 

For many UC Davis students, coffee shops are central to our studying environment. The ASUCD has two units based around coffee — the Coffee House (CoHo) in the Memorial Union and the CoHo South Cafe in the Student Community Center. UC Davis also features six Peet’s Coffee shops throughout campus, which are popular study spots for students. Downtown Davis is also home to a variety of coffee shops, including places like Mishka’s and Philz. 

 The question must be asked: what draws so many people to the busy atmosphere of a coffee shop as opposed to somewhere less populated or quieter? Coffee is a worldwide phenomenon in itself, with coffee shops providing a space to gather since their inception in the 16th century. Coffee is universal and has been celebrated in places where people come together to socialize, get work done or simply enjoy the rich taste of coffee in the environment where it is being served. 

This introduces a concept known as the “coffee shop phenomenon.” This theory hinges on the idea that productivity flourishes within a coffee shop atmosphere. 

Whether it’s the wafting aroma of coffee beans, the noise of an espresso machine or the sound of other people working around us when we sit down to lock in, many students at UC Davis have reported that studying in coffee shops boosts their productivity. 

“I think that studying and doing work in a coffee shop has helped me be able to be more productive, but I think it’s also important to find one that fits your vibe,” Annaliese Dobbins, first-year biochemistry major, said. “Like for me — I like going to coffee shops that have comfy seats and that aren’t too hectic. I’m not as productive in a lively coffee shop like the CoHo as I tend to be in a smaller and quieter one. Having other people around [who] are also doing work helps me stay focused.”  

Studies, such as one published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, show that productivity can increase when a certain level of background noise is present. Coffee shops tend to have an amount of background noise that’s beneficial for a working environment.

Coffee shops seem to offer the perfect dose of noise (not too high, not too low) which studies have shown can help improve performance on creative tasks,” Steve Fitz wrote in an article for Medium’s Writing Cooperative. “Noise that isn’t overwhelming seems to enhance cognitive flexibility — the ability to think divergently or ‘out of the box.’ This is important for generating new ideas and linking concepts together when writing.”

Students at UC Davis felt that while the coffee shop atmosphere can boost their productivity levels, it can also be a distracting environment when others aren’t focused on academics. 

“I feel like I can be more productive in a coffee shop, especially if other people are studying around me,” Tajinder Cheema, a first-year psychology major, said. “It makes me feel more pressured to study and work, but if people are talking and having fun, it could be hard to focus in a place like that […] and maybe [you can] even create a community with other people that are doing the same thing.” 

Research, including a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, cites that many adults can work productively in a noisy coffee shop but not in their own office — even if the noise level is the same. The ideal environment for creative and active work has at least some background noise. 

Charlotte de Roulhac, a first-year undeclared social sciences major, discussed her thoughts on this phenomenon and agreed with its benefits. 

“I find it helpful to work with people, and with noise around, I tend to get easily distracted and lost in my own head, especially if there is no background noise for me to tune out,” de Roulhac said. “The hustle and bustle of a cafe is ideal for focus and enjoyment. Also, it has the plus of a tasty beverage.” 

No matter their ideal location for studying or working, everyone is wired differently. A study location that may work for you and help bring out your most productive self might not be the same as your peers. 

If you are looking for a new place to study, consider working in a coffee shop — science shows they can be productive environments. When it comes to getting your work done, try studying in many different types of environments and see what works best for you. 


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org 



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