Coffee, machines, offices and what the stats say about your coffee break!

I was driving to work this morning, flicking between radio stations as I usually do, trying to find a song that inspired me. After a few minutes of searching I realized it was that time of morning – the time where songs stop and talk radio begins. I don’t have a problem with talk radio at all. This morning, however, I wanted to hear some music. Almost at the point of reaching for a cd and inserting it into the cd player which in a quick groundhog day moment would have reminded me that the cd player has been broken for years due to an infant inserting a number of coins into it, I heard someone say something about coffee!! Not just coffee, coffee breaks at work…so listen carefully because what you are about to hear may surprise you!

I once read an archived excerpt from the Times Magazine that discussed the panic caused in offices at the prospect of the introduction of mandatory coffee breaks. This was in 1956 and the article read ‘ The office coffee break, as firmly entrenched in US life as pie a la mode, is a costly and disrupting mid-morning nightmare to many a company…’ It really is a scary concept when you think about it…isn’t it? I mean can you imagine hoards of people in groups of 5, 10 or more, simply getting up and leaving the office to take a ‘mid-morning’ break? Who would do the work?

And that there is the crux; when bosses think coffee breaks, they also think profit losses. Back to this morning’s talk radio subject matter. The discussion centred around some brand new, just released stats about office coffee breaks. Apparently they have come a long way since 1956 in the USA. They are now alive and well and taken for granted all over the world! Who would have thought taking a break from work would be an idea so widely embraced by people in all sorts of work environments. Jokes aside, it seemed startling to me that coffee breaks would even be a subject up for discussion, that offices are employing research agencies to look into in terms of cost effectiveness!

It doesn’t take a genius stats expert to come to the conclusion that when you treat your staff well they perform well. And it just so happens that part of that treatment means letting them take breaks. We are all too well aware of how important it is to get out of an environment for a while, get some fresh air and clear your thoughts in order to return to the task more energized and ready to put in the required hours in front of you. Whether you consider parenting, sport practice, cleaning, driving…all activities require breaks! Breaks increase productivity, not the opposite!

Office coffee breaks are just as important as lunch breaks. During coffee breaks, staff get together to discuss matters of urgency, issues they need advice about, problems they are having. Without the coffee break employees would not be given the opportunity to communicate and engage with each other. It is also a well-researched fact that it is simply unhealthy and irresponsible to expect your body to be seated for 3 or more consecutive hours. So no matter what the poles say or what our bosses would like to infer from their results, the office coffee break should not be up for discussion!

Office coffee breaks do not necessarily have to be disrupting. If you offer your staff different options in terms of how or where they can take their coffee break, it needn’t involve walking to the nearest café that serves their favourite bean. More and more offices around Melbourne are realising the value of having a good, reliable and working coffee machine in their office. I stress the word working as you have no idea how many offices we have come across who insist on the fact that they do have a coffee machine in their office, only to wonder at our confusion when we point out that we meant one that was working!!! What good is a coffee machine that sits in the corner and gathers dust? It doesn’t help anyone, especially those poor workers who keep getting told that there is a perfectly good coffee machine that they are welcome to use in the kitchen…if they can fix it!

So, if you can do the minimum for your staff and provide them with a working coffee machine that they can use in their breaks, that is comparable to the standard of coffee they are used to outside, you have no excuses as to why the poll results about coffee breaks and productivity would interest you…

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