Cafe: East vs. West

People often go to cafe not for coffee but for work. According to Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema (2012), an appropriate ambient noise (e.g., cafe noise) enhances work performance. Their five studies showed that people performed creative tasks better when surrounded by the moderate ambient noise (70db) than the low one (50db) or the high one (85db). They argue that when people are surrounded by the moderate ambient noise, people cannot process information easily and thus they focus on their work harder and think more abstractly and creatively.

One website picked up their findings and enables its visitors to play a pre-recorded coffee shop noise at your computer (Coffitivity).

20120708 @ Cafe bene
Cafe “Bene” @ Seoul
Cafe @ Seoul
Cafe “Gurunaru” @ Seoul

Many other space attributes beyond sound are discussed on how to create the ideal workspace. According to the Psyblog run by Jeremy Dean, for instance, there are six tips to do so: (1) avoid open-plan, (2) the great tidy-messy debate, (3) curvy is beautiful, (4) room with a (picture of a) view, (5) plants, and (6) decorates. When it comes to coffee shop chains, Starbucks seem to meet many tips while other competing Canadian coffee shop chains such as Second Cup or Tim Hortons seem to meet only few.

However, more space attributes (in a coffee place) will affect work performance. Two example attributes are whether a coffee place is indoor or outdoor and whether it is brand-new or run-down. Interestingly, most local coffee shops in Seoul are indoors and brand-new while many local coffee shops in North American cities are outdoors and relatively run-down. Since I generally worked more productively when I was at the local coffee shops in North America than when I was at those in Seoul, I expect [outdoor] and [run-down] might be extra critical attributes for a coffee shop to be an ideal workplace.

Cafe @ Boston
Cafe “Au Bon Pain” @ Boston
Cafe @ Virginia
Cafe “Aromas” @ Virginia

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