Do coffee breaks really increase productivity?

Do you shudder every time one of your team members heads to the coffee station? Maybe you shouldn’t – coffee breaks could increase productivity by up to 23%.

Petru Tinca • 
Do coffee breaks really increase productivity

If you’re an avid clock-watcher, and you shudder every time one of your team members gets up to go to the break room, then you may wish to cover your eyes – because a recent study revealed that coffee breaks could actually increase productivity by 23%.

Remove coffee breaks at your own peril

A study reported by HR News revealed that  after a week without coffee breaks, almost 80% of subjects noticed a decrease in productivity. And that on average, they noticed a productivity decrease of around 23%.

But before you go putting this down to a simple lack of caffeine, the coffee actually had very little to do with the study. Instead, it looked specifically at “coffee breaks with colleagues”, meaning the time that people spent away from their desks with a workplace buddy. Whether that’s drinking coffee, playing ping pong, or engaging in idle chit-chat was kinda beside the point.

In other words, the coffee is optional. So hooking your team up to coffee-infused drips is probably not going to have the same effect.

Less fun, less job satisfaction, and higher turnover

What’s more, the study also discovered that these coffee breaks with colleagues had an impact on job satisfaction, too. In fact, the absence of these coffee breaks led to:

  • A 94% chance of having less fun in the office
  • An 84% chance staff would enjoy their job less
  • A 70% increase in the number of staff who were likely to quit

This last figure is the most interesting to me. And that’s because you can debate for days whether or not “fun” has a place in the office. You can even debate that employees don’t need to enjoy their jobs to be productive (although, good luck arguing that one). But you can’t really argue that high staff turnover is healthy.

The knock-on cost of high turnover

A while ago, we published an article about the cost of staff turnover. And we discovered that on average, it cost a little over £30,000 per year to replace a single member of staff.

This might be difficult to believe, but it’s not hard to see how the figures are made up. The average cost of hiring a new employee alone is around £3,000 – more if you need to pay fees for recruitment consultants when filling specialist roles. You’ve then got the HR costs to consider – you need to spend time researching, interviewing, vetting and liaising. And on-boarding is costly, too! Payroll, taxes, insurance, new equipment, etc. Not to mention the costs of lost productivity, the knowledge you lose when the previous person leaves the building, and more.

So anything that impacts your turnover rates, is worth a second look. And for that reason, I suggest you ask yourself if strictly policing comfort breaks during the day is really worth your time?