Why you’re more creative in coffee shops

Some of the most successful people in history have done their best work in coffee shops.

Pablo PicassoJK RowlingSimone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul SartreBob Dylan – whether they’re painters, singer-songwriters, philosophers or writers, people across nations and centuries have tapped into their creativity working away at a table in a café.

Of course, Covid-19 has put the kibosh on lingering for hours in cozy rooms packed with people sipping lattes. As we begin another year living amid a pandemic, many of us continue to work remotely on our own. And if remote work becomes permanent for some – as many experts predict – we might ask ourselves why, when things settle down, we should bother going back out to work in public, only to ostensibly isolate ourselves with our heads down – something we’re already doing at home.

But putting on your noise-cancelling headphones to toil away at your desk is actually different than doing the same surrounded by other people buzzing over your shoulder. There are many ways coffee shops trigger our creativity in a way offices and homes don’t. Research shows that the stimuli in these places make them effective environments to work; the combination of noise, casual crowds and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative. (So, no, it’s not just that double espresso.)