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Freelancers and coffee – why the love affair?

Posted by Tom West on Feb 1st, 2021 | News and opinion

A cup of coffee | Freelancers and Coffee - why the love affair? | Crunch

Freelancers have to deal with unfounded stereotypes an awful lot, whether that’s always being on holiday, working in pyjamas, or not being good enough for a ‘real’ job. But one that (for the most part) appears to have at least a shred of truth to it is the well-documented love affair between freelancers and coffee.

I know, I know, caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. Saying that freelancers enjoy it is as much of a bombshell as telling you they’re all big fans of eating, sleeping or breathing. But the relationship between the freelancer and their beloved java is a special one worth exploring – and perhaps with many full-time workers working from home during the pandemic, many will be joining the club.

So, how and why do so many freelancers end up turning into obsessed coffee lovers? Let’s count the ways.

Pubs aren’t open in the morning

Whether you’re meeting with a potential client or just looking to get out of your messy house, you’re probably going to need somewhere with a table, wi-fi and some refreshments. Most pubs don’t tend to open until around midday (in a non-COVID world, obviously!)  and don’t really house the type of atmosphere suitable for someone trying to knuckle down.

The gentle clutter of crockery and light murmur of conversation at a café or coffee shop provides an ideal soundtrack for concentration, as illustrated by the website – which allows you to replicate the relaxing background noise in your earphones. As quoted on the page, according to an Oxford University study:

“A moderate level of noise enhances creativity compared to both low and high levels of noise. Moderate background noise induces distraction which encourages individuals to think at a higher, abstract level, and consequently exhibit higher creativity.”

Contrarily, as far as I’m aware, nobody has invented a version that mimics the ambience of a pub, and I’m not sure it would be a particularly popular page for workers trying to get stuff done if they did.

Better for your work than booze and ciggies

Unless you’re a troubled artist attempting to draw inspiration from the bottom of a bottle, your motivation and productivity are far better served by a good old cup of joe. Don’t take my word for it – ask the U.S National Library of Medicine, who claim the consumption of (moderate) amounts of caffeine:

  • increases energy availability
  • increases daily energy expenditure
  • decreases fatigue
  • decreases the sense of effort associated with physical activity
  • enhances physical performance
  • enhances motor performance
  • enhances cognitive performance
  • increases alertness, wakefulness, and feelings of energy
  • decreases mental fatigue
  • quickens reactions
  • increases the accuracy of reactions
  • increases the ability to concentrate and focus attention
  • enhances short-term memory
  • increases the ability to solve problems requiring reasoning
  • increases the ability to make correct decisions
  • enhances cognitive functioning capabilities and neuromuscular coordination
  • in otherwise healthy non-pregnant adults is safe.

Obviously, too much of anything is a bad thing. Failure to responsibly cap your caffeine intake can result in you trying to concentrate on everything at the same time, housing more energy than a regular human knows what to do with. And of course, what goes up, must come down.

But I don’t think it’s too controversial to suggest that working whilst wrestling with a coffee crash is generally much easier than on a stonking hangover or in the clutches of a nicotine craving.

Making a cup is a nice distraction

According to a study at Baylor University, office workers who take short, frequent breaks during the workday have more stamina and fewer aches and pains when they return to work. Makes sense – particularly if you’re slumped over a desk all day.

Then there’s the ultradian rhythm theory, which suggests our brains are only able to stay focused for up to 90 minutes at a time. Managing our energy levels for longer periods becomes evidently easier if regular breaks are taken throughout the day.

One method of doing so is The Pomodoro Technique, a productivity hack that advocates a 25 minutes on/5 minutes off strategy. There’s not an awful lot of tasks you can complete in such a short period, but getting yourself a nice cup of the good stuff fits nicely into that time frame and reduces the risk of getting distracted by a more lengthy task (or more likely, falling into a black hole of Youtube videos of people falling over).

They have more time to enjoy the finer things in life

Freelancers have busy lifestyles, often even busier than regular employees. But the ability to march to the beat of their own drum and work at their own pace means they always have a mandate to stop what they’re doing and embrace the sweet aroma of their favourite roast.

Yes, it would be absurd to suggest that all freelancers like coffee, but the consensus is that those who do, swear by the stuff.

Once you’ve embraced a lifestyle that sees you drinking more decent coffee, it’s very difficult to go back to ‘Nescafé Original’ – the equivalent of chugging White Lightning at a cider festival. And it’s only natural that the more good quality stuff you drink, the more enthusiastic about it you’ll end up being.

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