HR: Is The Free Office Coffee Hurting Office Productivity

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Coffee is one of the most ubiquitous and unifying products in the world. It is, in one form or another, consumed in great volume in every corner of the earth. Coffee is the superhero beverage that has been proven to do everything from burning fat to lowering your risk of death, and shouldn’t be regarded as a job perk but should sit alongside technology and internet-access as fundamental to business success. These magic beans are the easy and economical way any business can achieve its responsibility to both take care of staff wellbeing and support productivity for increased workplace performance. However, what is it about coffee that may actually be hurting your productivity? Keep reading on to find out…

According to a Gallup poll, about two-thirds of American adults have at least one cup of coffee every day, averaging 2.7 cups of coffee per day, and 25% of people claim they feel addicted to caffeine. Despite this, only 10% of people want to cut back on their coffee drinking. These numbers haven’t changed much, because our relationship with coffee hasn’t changed much. We don’t see coffee as a stimulant drug; we see it as a natural way to reduce fatigue, improve alertness, heighten focus and ultimately boost productivity (plus, may of us find coffee to be delicious.)

Needless to say, it is an enormous industry that employs untold millions of people from bean harvesters to marketing executives. Coffee is also a cornerstone on which countless other industries are founded. Without coffee, how many of us would witness a decline in our overall productivity at the office? How many of us would witness a notable decline in our overall happiness? Coffee holds a great power over modern society and, especially, over the modern worker.

So, Is The Free Coffee At Work Resulting In More Efficient Workers - OR-  Is It Hindering Workers Productivity?

Yes… and No....

Time and time again, coffee proves to be a powerful and efficient stimulant. But the question of the effectiveness in aiding in personal productivity has no concrete answer.

Most people drink coffee for a jolt- to jump-start their day or to carry them through a midday slump. Others drink it to try and stay on task, which is why you see so many people in coffee shops around the globe with computers, hard at work or a communal coffee pot in nearly every corporate break room.

It’s no secret that what people are truly seeking is the caffeine in the coffee, though some admit that they also enjoy the acquired flavor Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world and there’s a reason for that - it does it’s job and it does it well. But how does it work?

Countless studies have shown that in small doses, caffeine can be incredibly effective, providing your body with a short boost of energy and alertness- but it also comes with other side effects.

So, overall, is coffee good for you? Does it truly increase productivity? Here are the issues to consider when you are reaching for your daily cup of coffee:

Memory and Cognition

The consumption of coffee is shown to improve memory and cognitive function. In fact, regular coffee drinking may even improve cognitive function overall as we age, rather than providing just a short-term boost. Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology at the University of Barcelona found that caffeinated beverages, when consumed with glucose, improve “cognitive performance in terms of sustained attention and working memory.”

Effectively, then, coffee improves performance. Drink a cup of coffee and you’ll remember more things from meetings, solve problems faster and be able to focus on (and complete) tasks more productively throughout the day...to  a point.

Pain Relief

Come to find out, drinking that rich dark brew, you love and that makes it possible to function each day, has other health benefits. A Norwegian study demonstrated that drinking coffee before working at a computer could have a powerful quick mode of pain relief. If you get aches and pains in your neck, shoulders, arms or wrists from sitting at a desk tapping away at a computer, simply start your work day in the office kitchen. By supplying staff with quality coffee, your workplace is actually providing an ergonomic solution.

Fatigue Fighter

Most of us can’t face the day without that first cup of coffee, but mornings aren’t the only time we need a pick-me-up. With the pressures of work we can often be sleep-deprived or just hit a wall during the day. Thankfully the caffeine in your much-loved brew, blocks the neurotransmitters that make you sleepy. Ordinarily, feeling tired can leave you less alert and less focused, but coffee can help mitigate those effects-- and may also boost your physical performance (if your job requires anything physical).

That being said, like any substance, the effectiveness of caffeine is dependent upon dosage, body type, weight, age, time of day, and yes, the quality of your sleep.

If you rarely (or never) drink coffee or consume caffeine, even in small doses, it can have a substantial effect. You can, and will, likely experience many of the aforementioned benefits of the stimulant. You might feel a burst of energy and laser-like focus, and you may find yourself getting a lot more done than usual.  However...TOO much caffeine can leave you dealing with the less desirable side effects of the drug. (Yes, I said drug- remember, coffee is, after all, a stimulant.) The most common effect is known as “the jitters.” Even those who regularly drink caffeinated drinks can overdo it and experience heart palpitations or an upset stomach- as well as other health challenges, such as:

Sleep Problems

Acting as an adenosine inhibitor, caffeine can also wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. If you overdo your caffeine intake in a day, whether you’re a double-fisting coffee veteran or brand new to the stuff, you might have trouble falling asleep as your usual bedtime.  Again, it affects everyone differently, so your experiences may vary. The effects of caffeine last for several hours, depending on the individual, so consuming coffee even within several hours of bedtime can interfere with your ability to sleep at night.

This results in you getting fewer hours of sleep, leading you to drink more coffee to make up for your tiredness the next day- creating a vicious cycle that can leave you more fatigued than ever. Eventually, you’ll need to repay your sleep debt, and if you don’t, the effects of sleep deprivation will start to accumulate- regardless of how much coffee you drink. Eventually, this will take a toll on your productivity.

Anxiety and Restlessness

Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline -- the fight-or-flight chemical in the brain that’s usually produced as a result of stress. In small quantities, this can give us a boost of energy, but if you’re prone to anxiety or have an anxiety/panic disorder, caffeine can exacerbate those problems.

Excessive coffee drinking can trigger panic attacks in vulnerable individuals, and lead to increased anxiety and restlessness in others. If you end up drinking more coffee than usual, this can leave you a fidgeting mess with your mind racing. You’ll likely be unable to settle down enough to get your work done-- and even if you do, you might notice that your mind is racing!

Physical Dependency

Don’t forget that caffeine is still a drug and that your brain can become physically dependent on it. Realize, too, that you’ll become more tolerant to caffeine over time, resulting in needing more to get the effects your desire. At that point, should you go a day or two without caffeine, you’ll start to experience the physical effects of withdrawal.

Basically, coffee becomes less effective over time, and if you ever decide to stop drinking it, you’ll definitely face a significant drop in your perceived wellness and productivity.

Summary

It’s important to be aware of both the upsides and downsides of coffee. Moderate use, with accompanying attention to your sleeping habits and stress levels, can be beneficial. Meanwhile, be aware that overuse and misuse may agitate an existing health problem-- or even develop a new one. Typically, caffeine abuse isn’t worth the trouble it brings, so set boundaries for yourself and stay healthy. Another great way to keep your drinks interesting, is to get a Lavit Cooler for your office- when you have access to over 30 flavors- you very well might end up realizing that you don’t even miss coffee! (but don’t worry- Lavit even has a coffee EcoCap for those days that you are craving a coffee!)

References:

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  • Acheson, K. J., Zahorskia-Markiewicz, B., Pittet, P., Anatharaman, K., & Jequier, E. (1980). Caffeine And Coffee: There Influence On Metabolic Rate And Substrate Utilization in Normal Weight and Obeses Individuals. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 33:989-997.

  • Battig. (1985). The physiological effects of coffee consumption, in coffee: Botany Biochemistry and Production Of Beans and Beverages. The AVI Publishing Company, INC, Westport, Connecticut. Ed. 5. 394-439

  • Bakuradze, T., Lang, R., Hofman, T., Eisenbrand, G., Schipp,, D., Galan, J., & Richling, E. (2014). Consumption Of A Dark Roast Coffee Decreases The Level Of Spontaneous DNA Strand Breaks: A Randomized Controlled Trial. European Journal of Nutrition, 54 (1), 149-156.

  • Hedström, A. K., Mowry, E.M., Gianfrancesco, M.A., Shao, X., Schaefer, C.A., Shen, L., & Alfredson, L. (2016). High Consumption Of Coffee Is Associated With Decreased Multiple Sclerosis Risk; Results From Two Independent Studies. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, jnnp-2015. nnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/02/03/jnnp-2015-312176.short

  • Troup, G. J., Navarini, L., Liverani, F.S., Drew, S. C. (2015). Stable Radical Content and Anti-Radical Activity of Roasted Arabica Coffee: From In-Tact Bean to Coffee Brew.

  • www.caffeineinformer.com

  • www.doist.com

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