Don’t be mean minded about tea & coffee breaks

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British DSCF1290workers lose 24 minutes a day getting tea and coffee. So what?

That’s about 5% of a working day. A small price to pay at a time when employee engagement is at an all-time low and stress is on the increase.

According to a story on the BBC  News website this is a habit that the company that carried out the survey, T6,  says employers need to crack down on as it costs £400 a year in lost man hours.

Fortunately the cavalry has come to the rescue. In fact not just the cavalry but the heavy brigade. The UK Tea Council, who might of course have a vested interest, talked about the sociability of tea-making and tea-drinking.

And doing a good turn by offering to make someone a drink is good for you as any positive psychologist will tell you.

Professor Cary Cooper is definitely all for it saying that breaks are essential in coping with a sedentary office job especially when you are glued to a screen and even e-mail your colleagues in the next department (and in one BBC department at the next desk according to a reliable source who once worked there).

Cooper even suggests organising free coffee breaks a couple of times a week so people can socialise together. Doesn’t have to be coffee of course and some experts warn about over-doing the caffeine.

A professor in biological psychology at Bristol University dismisses the idea that it increases alertness and in fact believes that drinking it regularly actually tires us. When we have a drink it just takes our energy levels back to what they would have been had we not had caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

Tea also contains caffeine and a substance called theanine which actually relaxes us as well as many other compounds – unlike cola or energy drinks – which might be good for us. And preferable I would have thought to taking Ritalin or other cognitive-enhancing drugs.

A professor in occupational health psychology at Cardiff University  says caffeine is rightly prized by workers for combating fatigue, and for over-riding severe sleep deprivation. It won’t stimulate you if you’re not tired but it gets you back on form when you are – the “restoration of function” effect.

But what they both agree on is that holding a hot drink, enjoying the aroma, and coming together with other people to enjoy is a wonderful thing. Amen to that.

Updated 13 January 2011: More evidence to support more frequent breaks away from your desk has emerged from a study of almost 5,000 workers in the USA.

The researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, found that among those who spent a long time sitting down, the more breaks they took  – even if only for a minute – the smaller their waist-line and the healthier their heart. The number of breaks taken by workers over 7 days varied from 99 to 1,258.

Sedentary work has resulted in more obesity and conditions such as diabetes. Genevieve Healy who led the research published in the European Heart Journal says the slogan should be: “stand up, move more, more often”.

She recommends standing up to take telephone calls, walking to see a colleague rather than telephoning or e-mailing, having standing meetings, and centralised services so that workers have to walk to them, having lavatories on different floors, and using the stairs rather than the lift.

She didn’t specifically mention coffee breaks but walking to the kitchen to make yourself, and a colleague, a refreshing cup of tea or coffee has got to be the best option of all surely?

Last posted January 2011

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2 thoughts on “Don’t be mean minded about tea & coffee breaks

    […] According to a story on the BBC  News website this is a habit that the company that carried out the survey, T6,  says employers need to crack down on as it costs £400 a year in lost man hours. Fortunately the cavalry has come to the res … Read More […]

    […] I’m not against workers having break and have said so in the past. But three hours a day is ridiculous which means only half of each working day is productive. So on […]

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