There are lots of recorded benefits to giving staff collective coffee breaks during the workplace, particularly in boosting motivation and productivity of workers. Legally, workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break during their working day (if they work for longer than 6 hours).
Research from Hunter and Wu tells us that taking a break early in the day to do something enjoyable helps to recover workers’ energy levels, mental resources, concentration and motivation. They also found that an early morning coffee run had physical benefits, such as reduced lower back pain, and higher job satisfaction. They found that taking ‘better’ breaks (something enjoyable, like a coffee break) have more positive benefits.
On top of that, other research (from Sonnentag) found that taking breaks from work and mentally disengaging is actually vital in order to maintain productivity on the job. Those who took breaks to disengage from work were found to be more satisfied with their lives overall, and experienced less psychological strain, but also that their productivity and engagement at work didn’t suffer for it. Collective coffee breaks are arguably essential in order for optimum workplace motivation.
There are critics of coffee breaks in the workday, however. T6 conducted a survey that found adults spend on average 24 minutes a day preparing and drinking hot drinks. Some employers were concerned about the money this could be costing their companies through loss in productivity. Though according to psychological findings, this is not the case. These minutes spent during exchanges over hot cuppas are actually essential to worker’s motivation. Contrary to fears about wasted time, it actually helps staff concentrate during work time.
Performing unsociable tasks, often at a desk or in front of a computer screen, is a regular part of office life. Having a coffee break gives staff the chance to mingle and socialise, which they would have otherwise been deprived from for long periods of time. Occupational psychologist Cooper says that breaks are needed to help people cope with sedentary work hours.
Working Time Does Not Equate To Productivity
There is even evidence to suggest that working longer does not mean increased productivity at all. In Sweden, the 6-hour work day has many benefits, including boosting motivation and encouraging staff to work harder. Employees have less stress and get sick less. This emphasises the fundamental importance of breaks, especially for employees working longer shifts, for the health, well-being and work efficiency of staff.
Another worry about coffee breaks is the negative impact that caffeine can have, like withdrawal symptoms. Some people are also concerned about what the other chemical compounds in hot drinks could do to our bodies. Caffeine does also have benefits relating to productivity, though, like the restoration of function, increased alertness and combating fatigue. Caffeine is used to override sleep deprivation, effects documented in a 2002 study on Navy Seals.
Despite the mixed opinions on the matter, the findings strongly suggest that coffee breaks are beneficial, if not necessary, to staff motivation. Collective breaks in the workday to socialise over coffee are also an opportunity for healthy interaction that some employees are deprived of, doing unsociable tasks. Putting the kettle on will not harm productivity.
Hunter, E. M., & Wu, C. (2015). Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(2), 302–311. doi: 10.1037/apl0000045
Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological detachment from work during leisure time the benefits of mentally disengaging from work. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(2), 114-118. doi: 10.1177/0963721411434979