Does a coffee break really boost productivity?
Ashe Samuels talks to Kurniawan Arif Maspul to explore whether a coffee break has genuine workplace benefits
Dating back to the early 20th century, coffee breaks have been adopted across various workplaces as a way to boost productivity. Today, they have become so habitual that many people barely think about it. But do coffee breaks genuinely improve productivity, or have they become something of a cultural obligation?
The primary association people have with coffee boosting productivity is its caffeine content. Indeed, caffeine is a stimulant that directly alters your brain function – linked with improved memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, reaction times, and general cognitive function.
“We see coffee contain a number of compounds that can contribute to energising effects, which can benefit productivity and teamwork,” says Kurniawan Arif Maspul, head roaster at Bash Coffee who has studied coffee’s impact in the workplace.
“Some of the most common compounds found in coffee act as a central nervous stimulant. For example, caffeine works by inhibiting adenosine receptors in the brain, resulting in greater alertness and a decrease in weariness.”
At the same time, caffeine can increase the brain’s release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and motivation. This effect can lead to improved mood and a more positive work outlook.
“Coffee also has chlorogenic acids and a polyphenol presence that has been linked to health benefits, as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.” Arif continues. “These may contribute to enhanced cognitive functions and mental performance, so these effects may boost productivity by improving brain function.”
“We also found that trigonelline is a chemical component found in coffee that has neuroprotective qualities, so it may aid in prevention of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative illness.”
As such, coffee not only offers a short-term productivity boost but also has demonstrated lasting effects that can sustain people’s cognitive abilities for work.
A coffee break’s social benefits
In addition to enhancing cognitive performance, coffee breaks can also bring wider social benefits to the workplace.
“A simple cup of coffee can do wonders for office stress,” says Arif. “Coffee breaks have become an important part of office culture, offering much-needed relief. It has a significant effect on job productivity.”
“Coffee breaks are perfect for creating opportunities for building healthy relationships among co-workers. This creates connections by offering a forum for open communication. Coffee breaks can break down barriers and create a sense of camaraderie among team members.”
But for them to be truly effective, Arif points out that coffee breaks must be timed appropriately. For one, too many can lead to excessive coffee consumption, which can result in negative effects such as anxiety, heart palpitations, and disrupted sleep patterns.
At the same time, research indicates that short, frequent breaks every hour of work tend to be more productive than working continuously for several hours. Yet, excessive short breaks can become disruptive rather than beneficial, so it’s important to strike a balance.
“I found research online that shows caffeine improves alertness, which can improve work performance as well,” Arif says. “This implies that properly planned coffee breaks can assist individuals in obtaining optimal levels of focus and engagement throughout the workday – as long as they are appropriately timed.”
Providing the best coffee break for your employees
Furthermore, the coffee itself can serve an important function. There is a growing appreciation for specialty coffee, and as more people recognise the sector’s values and the potential benefits it can bring to growers, their communities, and the environment, introducing it in the workplace can be a new point of connection between colleagues.
“The specialty coffee movement promotes sustainability, traceability, and transparency throughout the coffee supply chain,” says Arif. “This commitment to sustainability and quality resonates with an increasing number of people, and companies can offer employees an improved experience beyond just a caffeine boost by introducing specialty coffee into the office.”
It’s worth recognising that sustainability has been shown to be especially important to Gen Z and millennials. As these demographics occupy a growing portion of the workforce, businesses have a chance to connect with their employees by addressing these issues and making ethical decisions – and introducing sustainable coffee into the workplace can be an easy win.
“Companies can link their various sustainable practices by introducing specialty coffee into coffee breaks, which can improve employee engagement and morale,” says Arif. “This promotes environmentally friendly and responsible activities to instil a sense of pride into team members.”
However, most office settings aren’t equipped to provide the quality employees might expect at their local specialty coffee shop. In response, many businesses are turning to superautomatic coffee machines as a way to provide productivity-boosting breaks into the workplace without sacrificing on coffee quality.
For example, Carimali’s SilverTwin features two coffee hoppers and two powder hoppers, allowing for customisable beverage options. With a user-friendly interface, it can produce approximately 150 drinks daily on average – making it suitable for offices of various sizes.
Indeed, Carimali has a range of machines that make it feasible for businesses of any size to enjoy the benefits of coffee breaks without having to make significant investments in equipment, or worry about having to train your staff.
Ultimately, a substantial body of research suggests that coffee boosts productivity, and there are wider social benefits to implementing workplace breaks. All that’s left is for businesses to identify the best way to offer them in a way that suits their office and their employees.
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