This is a familiar question asked in workplaces right around the globe. It is a particularly poignant question at this time of year when we again recognise the great contribution Macmillan nurses make to the care of cancer sufferers. Thousands of people around the UK, including OnTrack and many of our clients will raise awareness and funds for this wonderful work. It is of course an incredibly important cause as most of us will have been touched by cancer in some form or other.
How about though the importance generally of the coffee break and the contribution it makes to our working lives? Is a coffee break a waste of time resulting in a lack of productivity? Or is it an event which is a valuable investment of time in the patchwork of our working day resulting in improved productivity, increased social cohesion between the workforce, and a greater sense of belonging?
Much research points to the latter. The Swedes certainly think the coffee break is important. Their coffee break, called ‘Fika’, which literally means ‘pause’, is virtually protected by law. Each employee is entitled to a five minute break for every hour they have worked. The conversation and the company are as important as the caffeine in the coffee and these breaks are seen as an important part of daily life.
A recent article in Psychology Today talked about the need for fewer mails and more coffee breaks. They showed through extensive research that by spending more time having a coffee break and talking rather than simply sending a mail can have a 10 – 15% increase on workers productivity. It promotes cohesion between fellow employees or our ‘tribe’ which is a major factor in not only increased productivity but also in job satisfaction. The coffee break is an ideal opportunity to become more successful in your role by sharing details about how to deal with specific situations, sharing tips and promoting communication, collaboration and conversation.
One senior leader recently told me a story how he believed without doubt that the short coffee break he attends first thing in the morning with his team was his most powerful tool in building strong, trusting relationships with his people. We know how powerful the social ritual of sharing food and drink can be in forging strong bonds between people and the coffee break is a good example of that.
Even workspaces in the modern working environment are now being designed to encompass areas for socializing and allowing interaction to happen in a relaxed and informal way. Being productive is no longer limited to the desk but can also take place whilst ‘grabbing a coffee’. In a new building designed for Google they have incorporated ‘The Coffee Lab’ – a neutral territory which is perfect for meeting with colleagues and visitors. They believe that much important sharing of information and idea generation will take place there.
So let’s remember the real benefits of regular coffee breaks when we enjoy our coffee and cakes today and encourage them to happen all through the year. They help to make work a happier place to be by creating an element of fun. They refresh and provide a break from pressure, they are motivational and allow laughter and stories to be shared, they reduce stress by allowing troubles to be shared and can boost your mood and give an instant burst of enjoy. What’s not to like??……Mine’s a skinny latte…..