Typically, when I think about grabbing beers with others, it’s usually to get inebriated,  act like idiots and have fun. However, since working at a startup with some beer aficionados (drunks?), I’ve come to realize that grabbing a beer or two can boost productivity and be beneficial to our business . I’ve noticed when I’m about one beer in (I’m a light-weight), the creative juices start to flow. Just the act of leaving the office and taking a break allows my brain to disengage and relax — letting it see problems from a different angle. And the beer greases the wheels, opening doors to new — and sometimes crazy — solutions.

I am in no way advocating going to work drunk, but I believe strongly that stopping work an hour or two earlier a couple times a month to grab a beer or two with your colleagues can increase productivity.

Quick disclaimer about our biweekly beer breaks:  about 70% of the time we are usually discussing topics not related to business at all, such as: what’s our next startup, weekend plans, and other random topics. It’s just a few guys shooting the shit. These random moments and discussions helps unite the team and increase morale.  While team building does increase productivity a bit, it’s the times that we discuss our product over beers that have led to many “Aha!” moments.

After a long week, nothing is better than stopping an hour or two early and grabbing a beer . It’s during those long, strenuous weeks where we can benefit the most by taking a break to grab a beer. Our brains need an opportunity to disconnect from the tasks we’ve been focused on all week to solve the big picture problems.

We spend so much time focused on low-level tasks, it’s hard to pull our concentration back to 10,000 foot view problems. It’s the proverbial “can’t see the forest for the trees” problem. Leaving the office, grabbing a beer and talking about anything but work for a while frees the mind from the minutiae of the week. Once the “trees” are cleared (by beer and casual conversation), the forest becomes obvious.There have been numerous times where we came up with an idea over beers that we may never have discovered while in the office.

Beer relaxes your brain and has helped us talk out problems. We came closer to solving some of the problems we discussed in a previous post just by grabbing a beer and brainstorming. In fact, there’s research that suggests that a beer or two can help you come up with new ideas.

Studies have shown that being mildly intoxicated can lead to creativeness . BPS Research Digest discussed a scientific study on the effect beer:

The key finding of the new research is that the intoxicated participants solved more items on the Remote Associates Test compared with the control participants[…] Moreover, the intoxicated participants tended to rate their experience of problem solving as more insightful, like an Aha! moment, and less analytic.

BPS Research Digest asked one of the study’s co-authors, Jenny Wiley, about the results:

“So the bottom line,” Wiley said, “is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more diffuse or more flexible attentional state may be needed for creative solutions to emerge. Some folks may choose a pint of ale as their muse, others can choose one of these other contexts … “

When you think about it, most of the “Aha!” moments in your life probably came when you were relaxed — in the shower, lying in bed, driving home from work. There’s actually a lot of research about the “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment and why it commonly occurs when your brain is relaxed. The Telegraph wrote about a study published in the journal PLoS ONE by a team headed by Dr Joydeep Bhattacharya at Goldsmiths College, London, and the Austian Academy of Sciences, Vienna:

A Eureka! sensation involves minimal monitoring of one’s own thoughts and builds on the sentiment expressed more than a century ago, when the great scientist Louis Pasteur declared that “Chance favours only the prepared mind.” […] “Sudden flashes of insight don’t just happen, but are the product of preparation when the brain is relaxed and receptive to ‘free floating ideas,’” Dr Bhattacharya says

So, knowing now that the “Aha!” moment occurs when the brain is relaxed, and that alcohol relaxes the brain, it’s a lot easier to accept that grabbing a beer with colleagues is a great way to come up with some creative solutions to your problems.

An infographic describing the different effects of beer and coffee on productivity

Infographic courtesy of Ryoko Iwata

So, you might be thinking “Lets get the team together, have a beer and talk some business.” While planning a “business” meeting over beers might yield some results, I strongly believethe best creative ideas come out of a very natural and informal affair.We go out just to grab a beer and enjoy each other’s company; the creativity and solving problems are an organic result, since our big picture issues inevitably come up in conversation. We never plan to talk about a specific issue over beers. We grab a beer to relax and decompress after a long week’s work. Being relaxed is huge in a startup; we’ve just been lucky to solve some issues while relaxing.

Obviously, too many beers will work against you. If you are stumbling and can’t mutter a complete sentence, you won’t be very productive. I find 1 to 2 beers to be  just right. Also, only go out when you can afford to lose the hour or two of time — there’s not guarantee that your problem will be solved. We always make sure we are done with everything for the week before we go out.

Beer can definitely help you be creative. It’s that creativity that can help you solve some problems or come up with new ideas for your business. Just keep in mind to not force the conversation and to relax as much as possible.

So grabbing a beer with your team can only help you and your team to get the creative juices flowing. But don’t forget that it is also a great morale boost and helps the team bond so that we can all operate as a unit. Grab a beer. Do it for relaxation and team building and hopefully you’ll get an “Aha!” moment when discussing work.

If drinking isn’t your thing, anything you can do to help you relax might help you solve some problems creatively. Go on a walk, grab a cup of coffee or tea, or anything else that gets you out of the office. All of these might help relax your brain to allow that “Aha!” moment to come along. Doing anything as a team that relaxes the whole team is beneficial — you just need to find your thing.

Have any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments below or find me on twitter @KylePinzon

Written by Kyle Pinzon

Kyle is the Director of Customer Success at Digsy and also dabbles in Marketing at Digsy. Kyle started at Digsy in June of 2012, as a part-time contractor. Kyle became Digsy's first full-time employee in August of 2013. While new to the startup environment, Kyle is loving every minute of it and excelling. Kyle resides in Placentia, CA. He enjoys NASCAR and rooting for the Anaheim Ducks, Anaheim Angels, and the San Diego Chargers. Lover of all things tech-related. Science nerd.