Today I learned about a company called Kitchensurfing. They are a Brooklyn-based company who serve to link up freelance chefs with people in need of one.
I read about them in an Entrepreneur article talking about startups and food perks.
When you think of startup food culture, you probably think of Google, of Facebook, and the bevy of lavish perks that these companies can afford to provide to their employees. I think the way most companies view this is, “Ach, I have neither the time nor money for this.” Luckily, this article lists small ways that you can begin to incorporate (ha! Get it?) elements of the Google cafeteria into your office.
This particular company chose not to buy a Keurig machine, as is the norm. Instead, they purchased old-fashioned Chemex pourover cones, filters, kettles, grinders, and beans in bulk.
If you’re not familiar with pourover coffee, here’s a video:
The importance of conversation
The reason I loved this story was because of the rationale behind the choice: coffee that takes a long time to make increases the chances that you’ll bump into somebody and start up a conversation.
I believe that frequent conversations with coworkers really helps to stimulate ideas. Many times in my old job I would chat with a colleague about a problem I was having, and she would say, “Oh, have you tried this?” Or he would say, “If you need an extra set of eyes, I’m game.” And out of these 2-minute conversations would come ideas for new projects and products. 2 minutes! That’s all it took.
So to me it’s amazing to hear of a company that not only believes in that, but institutionalizes it!
The importance of breaks
There’s been a growing trend of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), in which you can take as many breaks as you want, as long as you get work done. Working in this mindset requires silencing the voice that says, “But this is the way it’s always been done! If you’re in the office, you have to do work!”
To me, that’s insane. I don’t believe anybody can sustain 8 hours of non-stop work (okay, well, 3 and then 5, with a break for lunch in between) and maintain high quality work. I believe that a person can create better work in 4 hours of work-break-work-break than in 8 hours of work-work-work.
All too many times, I found myself working way past end of day, killing myself to “get it done”. But I would come back the next day and have to rewrite half of it.
Another reason I like this story is it implies that Kitchensurfing believes in breaks. It believes in the restorative power of breaks, and also turns that “idle” time into something good, by increasing the chances of conversation (which itself has been linked to increased productivity).
The importance of ritual
The last reason I like this story is just because I really like making coffee by hand. I actually use an Aeropress and a tiny little hand-driven Hario coffee grinder.
On weekend mornings, I’ll put two scoops of beans into the grinder, grind them down while the kettle boils, and watch some Sportscenter. After that, I make my coffee, plate up a nice blueberry crumb cake, and read the paper.
It’s been my ritual for the past year, and it’s so calming. I really love the sound of grinding coffee and the boiling kettle. I love the smell of the ground beans. I love the machine-like routine of blooming the coffee, and then the normal pour. And I would love to have this at work, just as a way to take a step out of the day, away from phones and emails and projects and errands, just to enjoy the company of gears and grinders, coffee, and, sure, maybe even a coworker.
Wrapping it all up
To bring it back around, I think that many companies can benefit from this sort of mindset. Small companies, to be sure, but that’s where the startup culture comes from, doesn’t it? Long, deep, and frequent conversations with one another to rapidly iterate.
But I think larger companies could benefit as well by using this to enable crosstalk between team-members. In my experience as a lower-level employee at a medium-size company, I found myself working with colleagues who barely had time to eat, let alone talk. Part of me hopes that steering managers toward less daily grind and more coffee grind (yessss), in an effort to make work more enjoyable.