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Coffee Fiends In The Workplace

February 23, 2015

Coffee is a national pastime for millions of people in the US. From the first cup shortly after the alarm goes off in the morning, to the 3pm refuel we’re a country that loves our bitter caffeinated beverages. It’s common for an office to either have a coffee station where employees can enjoy a free cup of the standard fare, or a nearby location where you can pay for a cup just the way you like it.

While taking a break in the middle of the day can help increase productivity and get our blood moving it also takes you away from your workspace. If you’re at your desk it’s assumed you’re working. If you are not there it may be assumed that you’ve stopped working. And we’ve all had those coworkers who spend more time at the coffee bar than at their desks. So the question has to be asked: are coffee breaks acceptable and beneficial in the workplace?

Cassandra, an expert from Verizon, had this very insightful response to coffee breaks in the workplace:

“Many of us work in high stress, high volume roles that require a great deal from us personally and every now and then a break is needed during the course of the day. The corporate coffee shop or free coffee machine is a common amenity available to employee populations throughout the work day for them to grab a cup of java, as needed.

In my experience, the coffee break isn’t viewed negatively and is encouraged but not in excess to the point where an individual is unable to complete the assigned work duties. I agree that little break to grab coffee is ok if you're coming back to your desk to continue working on your deliverables or need to regroup while working on a challenging project.

Additionally, coffee meetings are on the rise and maybe your colleagues are actually working during the periods when it looks like a break. The coffee break is like the water cooler where employees have the chance to catch-up, build and deepen our work relationships. In sum, if your manager hasn't commented on the coffee break activity then it's probably ok and I would follow direction from your management on this break.”

There are many executives who schedule coffee breaks into their day. It helps break up the monotony of meetings, documents, and an endless stream of emails. The scheduled coffee break does a few things for them. It makes them get up, move, and interact with other employees in real time. The coffee break also makes them accountable to push through work until they’ve ‘earned’ a break. Whether your beverage of choice is coffee, tea, or a soda, getting away from your desk can greatly improve your efficiency and attention during the work day.

If a scheduled break just isn’t your style then try limiting how long your breaks are, or limit their frequency to help you stay on task. The point is to create some framework that gives you boundaries for your break time. If you have boundaries they can always flex during different seasons to accommodate what’s happening in the workspace. We’ve all had to work a 12+ hour day and those certainly require more than two cups of coffee to get through. Enjoy your brew with respect and allow it to increase your productivity, not become a poor excuse not to work.

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