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Much Ado About the Coffee Break

December 19, 2010

In a recent BBC article, the coffee break or not to break issue was shown to be a hot one with British office workers and bosses. Statistics of various aspects of office protocol dealing with taking a break from work to sip a warm drink were mixed into the discussion. Apparently, workers in Britain are well behind US workers when it comes to the revered American coffee break.

One telling statistic revealed that 40% of British office workers fix a hot drink for more than one co-worker each and every day, for those over 30. If under 30 years of age, one or more goes out to a local coffee chain branch to purchase drinks. This fetching of drinks averaged out to 24 minutes a day per adult worker. The research concluded that the average worker loses 190 days of productivity during his lifetime just procuring tea or coffee.

In a quandary somewhat mysterious to American workers, Brits are asking if this is a good deal for the employer. Long an accepted part of the American work culture - though breaks for full-time workers are not mandated by US law - they have come to be expected. So it’s somewhat surprising to read professionals discussing the pros and cons of the coffee break. It seemed clear from the discussion that Brits are coming to accept that breaks during the workday are good for office employees and help rather than hurt productivity. See a related article on coffee’s effect on productivity at http://www.roaste.com/CafeRoaste/News/Workplace-Coffee-Fuels-Production.

Bet you didn’t know that Brits consume about 235 million cups of coffee and tea daily. Caffeine drinks are definitely the most popular drinks among the British. So far they still win out over the increasingly popular energy drinks. That might be a good thing, as the author pointed out that tea and coffee contain high amounts of natural compounds in addition to the caffeine, whereas soda and energy drinks do not.

An occupational psychologist was quoted as recommending that companies should provide morning coffee breaks twice a week, for which workers would be encouraged to leave their desks so they could chat over free hot drinks. For Americans, this is a mixed blessing. The free drinks sound good, but twice a week would not quite cut it in America where we’re used to twice a day plus lunch.

It’s a good thing for the American worker that we broke off from Great Britain. Remember, it was a Tea Party that turned the tide on that issue. Tea party or coffee party, the American coffee break is no longer a subject for debate.



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