A coffee away helps you work rest and play… and work in a much more motivated, innovative way.
Our tech team is broken into small, multidisciplinary teams, each working on a piece of the software product. Developers, user experience, designers, business analysts and quality assurance work closely with consultants, sales and specialists along with the clients themselves.
One team always seems to be innovating, as well as delivering quickly without dropping quality. The team is dynamic and always produces a little bit extra on each task. Everyone in the team is happy and it really feels like a group of best friends happen to have landed a job in the same team… but before the team was formed, they were all strangers.
Every day, mid afternoon, some, if not all of that team go out for a coffee. They hunt down the best coffee places around the office and off they go. I joined them last week and wandered down to their local favourite. Each person funds their coffee break and often people pay for each other. It all evens out in the end. As we walk there are various conversations going on, some about work, some not. The topic of conversation doesn’t matter, it is the interaction that does. The team is forming bonds. The break from the desk, the “fresh” London air and the chance to step away from the tasks all helps with this creativity. A lot of research suggests that the moment you step away from concentration is the time when the brain comes up with the best ideas.
Facilitating these informal, relaxed conversations is not a new thing. Take the Pixar studio, just north of Oakland, California, formerly an old Del Monte canning factory. The original plan was to have three separate buildings; to house the computer scientists, animators and management separately. This was the most cost effective solution. Steve Jobs had other ideas. He wanted one large airy space with an atrium at the centre. In that atrium are all the mailboxes, meeting rooms, the kitchen and the toilets. Everyone using that large space has to come to the centre at some point. This encourages general conversations, interactions an the fuel for creativity.
The balance has to be right- too much general chit chat and nothing gets done, too little and the creativity is lost. The afternoon coffee break is not forced, it is organic and driven by the team. No company funding has allowed this to happen and I think that this makes it so effective.