Coffee breaks have gone out of fashion in some offices. Many employers, obsessed with productivity, don’t see the benefits of letting employees spend time not working during the day. In fact, the coffee break is vitally important for many employees. The benefits in morale, productivity and communication far outweigh the 15 minutes of work lost.
Stress in the workplace is an epidemic. Nearly half of all workers suffer from some degree of stress, and it’s estimated to cost employers up to $300 billion in lost productivity, health costs, errors and interpersonal conflicts. Stressed out employees are never going to deliver the same quality of work as those who work in a more relaxed, comfortable environment.
Short coffee breaks make a big difference when it comes to dealing with stress. Even just the difference between taking a break at your desk and getting up to take a coffee break is significant, as the latter disconnects you from your tasks. Stepping away, even just for 15 minutes, helps your brain to relax and reduce stress.
It’s no secret that coffee helps you wake up in the morning. Caffeine blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine, allowing for more norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Increasing the levels of these key hormones can improve mood, energy level, and overall cognitive performance.
Too much consumption of caffeine can have harmful long-term health effects, but a cup or two a day can be very beneficial for work performance. This is especially true in mid-morning, which is often the most productive time of day. If you’ve had your fill of coffee for the day, there are a huge number of alternatives, from tea to coconut water or probiotic drinks. What really matters is giving employees time to recharge so they can be more focused overall.
Organizations thrive on communication. Unfortunately, many companies can develop a rigid chain of command, where employees only communicate with their direct supervisors while neglecting to share information with coworkers in other divisions or on other projects. The break room is a great place to facilitate these informal conversations.
Many people underestimate the importance of these casual conversations, but many of the most successful businessmen of the modern era have recognized their value. Steve Jobs intentionally designed the headquarters of Pixar to include a massive central atrium where employees from different departments would run into each other and have unplanned interactions. Designs like this have heavily influenced the coworking and open-office plans that have become more popular in recent years. When people with different perspectives and viewpoints engage in unstructured conversations the possibility of collaborative efforts and developing improved processes increases.
Even if conversations in the break room have nothing to do with work and don’t lead to any tangible collaboration, they can be extremely beneficial. There’s a huge amount of value in just letting people get to know each other better. Coffee breaks can help employees connect with one another and develop a community of trust and friendship.
When employees trust each other, everything works smoother. Less time may be wasted on red tape or unnecessary supervision, as everyone may be more likely to trust that their coworkers will do their jobs well. People also may begin to think outside their own narrow roles and understand how their work affects the rest of the company, which typically makes them more focused and less error prone.
Reducing health risk.
Sitting all day is bad for your health. Even if you exercise, extended periods of sitting can lead to an increase of diabetes, poor circulation and bad joints. Staring at a screen can also be harmful, as it damages the brain and increases the risk of depression or anxiety.
Taking short breaks throughout the day to stand up, walk around and get away from the computer can have big health benefits. That’s good for employees and it’s good for the company, which usually ends up sharing health care costs. Healthier employers are cheaper, more effective employees.