If you’ve ever worked in an office, you probably agree with the sentiment that there is nothing that rivals the much-awaited coffee break. However, it is not only because that is the time you can get away from your work for a short period of time. Good ol’ coffee breaks carry more benefits than meets the eye.
Coffee has been the go-to drink for millions of people for centuries now, and it’s not a coincidence. Everyone knows about the energizing effect this beverage possesses, but that’s not all.
Coffee is also a healthy drink (this might surprise you), and, above all, it is a social drink. The act of coffee drinking is a ritual for many, nothing short of a culture of its own, and at the same time, this act is deeply embedded in the culture of many countries around the world.
But how will a coffee break benefit your employees and your company culture on the whole? Read on to learn about the ins and outs of coffee breaks at the workplace and how you can maximize them.
The origin of coffee
First cultivated in Arabia as far back as the 15th century, coffee has a long history to talk about. While no one knows how and when exactly it was discovered, there are legends surrounding this topic, such as the one of Ethiopia. Regardless of its origins, though, once it spread in Persia, Egypt and other near-eastern countries, it already started to become a “social” beverage.
Rather than at home, people enjoyed their coffee in public coffee houses while relaxing, socializing and having fun. These coffee houses were basically the main hubs people talked and exchanged information at. And, truthfully, they have similar roles today as well.
After the Arabian Peninsula, coffee found its way into the European continent as well, and although first greeted with skepticism, it quickly spread through the countries and became popular as people noticed its energizing effects.
Inevitably, it reached America as well, and coffee plantations spread all around during the 18th century, making coffee one of the favorite drinks in the world as well as one of the most profitable export crops.
With such a history, it perhaps does not come as a surprise that coffee possesses an important role in today’s world as well. Statistics such as the one claiming that about 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world annually, as well as the one stating that just in the United States, 400 million cups are calculated on a daily basis serve as a testament to how well-loved coffee really is.
You might have even heard the expression “coffee culture”. It refers to certain social interactions that are reliant on coffee that serves as a social lubricant.
At the same time, in the US, it also refers to coffee shops being present everywhere and the function they serve as both places of meeting and in many cases, working and doing other kinds of business too. Coffee culture can translate to your office break room as well.
Workplace interactions help relieve stress
Although technology has limited our interactions to phone calls, emails and instant messages most of the time and we might think of this as a convenient solution, humans are still social beings and they need that face-to-face interaction to let out some steam and gain a boost in their mood and energy.
Creating a safe, relaxing space away from your employees’ computers and their pending tasks will improve the overall atmosphere in the office. Equipping this break room with quality Italian coffee machines will make each employee flock there as soon as the time for a break comes, and the chit chat that will accompany consuming that hot cup of joe will help the employees relieve stress by venting.
While each person is different when it comes to what helps them with managing stress, talking about it is certainly one of the most effective methods, and your employees will be more productive and happier if they are less stressed.
It fosters personal relationships
As mentioned, humans are naturally striving to form connections with others, and this is basically impossible if they spend the entire day locked up in their cubicle and drink their cup of coffee at their desk while dealing with some smaller tasks.
A coffee break where each employee leaves their office or cubicle and gathers in the break room gives them an opportunity to engage in conversation with their colleagues, get to know them better, share personal stories and so on and so forth.
Your employees will form friendships, and nothing boosts morale more than actually liking the people you are working with.
It will also generally improve the communication between the individuals as they get to know each other better, and it will slowly make the whole team work like a well-oiled machine.
Effective teamwork is a key to success in the business world so encouraging your employees to interact with their colleagues by implementing coffee breaks is a good way to make the office feel less like a cold, corporate environment and more like a friendly place.
As it has already become quite obvious, a coffee break serves an important function as the opportunity for employees to talk. Now, while some of this talk will involve venting and some will involve telling their colleagues about a competition their kid won at school, some of this talk will also involve sharing information.
Casual chats during the coffee break enable employees from different departments to exchange information and keep their friends in the know about relevant things that are happening in the office. All in all, a coffee break will be where you can get the news if there are any.
It is also human nature to gossip — there is nothing inherently wrong with talking about other people, for instance, a new employee at the office. And if there are some more-or-less confidential happenings in the office, chances are they will get out during those coffee breaks.
This, however, is by no means a negative thing. On the contrary, it further encourages transparency within the organization and clear lines of communication.
A boost to the mind
What probably everyone knows about coffee is that it gives you energy. This is thanks to caffeine that is contained in coffee beans — the amount contained in coffee beans varies by its variety and roast level, but unless you are going for decaf, you are bound to get a little boost that will help you get through the day.
How exactly that works, as explained by scientists, is that caffeine, upon entering your system, impersonates the chemical compound known as adenosine, while at the same time dodging (or more like deceiving) the receptors that would register adenosine and make you tired once it reaches a certain level.
All the while, other neurotransmitters such as dopamine (the “motivation” hormone) are being released freely, making you feel more awake, focused and energized, for a while at least.
Especially on busy work days at the office, a coffee break can really make the difference between moping around and getting something done effectively — particularly when the afternoon energy drop hits and all you want to do is go home. A short break at times like these will not take you away from your work for a long time, but you will come back energized and ready to tackle the task.
A 15-minute coffee break proved to improve productivity immensely, as research shows. In addition, caffeine reduces reaction time and improves cognitive functions such as short-term memory and problem-solving skills, which can prove to be very important factors in certain work situations.
Moreover, coffee drinkers know how they can become groggy if they don’t have their morning cup of joe. Being irritable and tired at the office will only generate negative energy and create tension between coworkers.
On the other hand, a coffee break can remedy this situation and make sure employees don’t snap at each other for the smallest mistake just because they haven’t had their dose of caffeine that day yet.
A healthy option
Besides all the social benefits that were just described and the short-term improved mental functions, we must not fail to mention all the immense health benefits this beverage offers to its drinkers.
Health and wellness have been of rising concern for both individuals and corporations who want to ensure a healthy work environment for their employees, and you would be surprised how many positive effects regular coffee drinking can have.
Coffee is extremely rich in healthy antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the body. It helps prevent depression, and it serves as a shield against long-term cognitive decline. The intake of 3–5 cups of this beverage a day considerably contributes to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease down the line.
At the same time, lowered risks of diabetes type 2, heart disease as well as a number of certain types of cancer are also recorded. Non-coffee drinkers who are not aware of these facts might just rethink their decision if only made aware.
Besides all of this, having a designated break room away from the cubicles has the added benefit of having your employees get up and move a little. Sitting down for a long time is the root of many illnesses later on in life.
So even if just to stretch those muscles a little bit, it’s important to get up from time to time, and a coffee break will give the perfect “excuse” to do so.
While each country has its own coffee culture, it’s important to foster it at the workplace. It is true that in some countries, such as the UK, traditional coffee or tea breaks are an integral part of the workday, while in other, fast-paced countries, such as the US, taking your coffee to go and drinking it on the way is more common.
Nevertheless, encouraging coffee breaks and providing employees with good coffee at the office will benefit the workplace on many fronts, as previously described.
Social interactions between the employees and a positive relationship between them fostered during these coffee breaks contribute to job satisfaction and help prevent burnout; taking a break and chatting with coworkers lowers stress and boosts productivity, while the positive health benefits of coffee top all this off beautifully.
Sacrificing a few minutes a couple of times each day from work hours is thus more than worth it.