By Sarah Good
How often do workers in your office look at each other and say, "Wanna make a coffee run with me?" From iced lattes and triple-shot espressos to a plain old medium with sugar and cream, America's crazy for coffee. Nearly two-thirds of Americans age 13 and older drink coffee every day, according to the National Coffee Association. If we assume, conservatively, that the average coffee drinker sips just eight ounces a day, that adds up to nearly 4 billion gallons of joe consumed every year.
This consumption signals a clear need to have quality coffee in the office, or else your workers might go hunting for it elsewhere, possibly leading to declines in productivity. The good news? While coffee's a shared national obsession, it's also so much more. The ways coffee benefits your workplace are numerous and diverse.
Coffee Offers Physical, Mental and Team-Building Benefits
According to studies from the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Heart Association, it's a veritable health food: Coffee consumption may lower your risk of diabetes and heart attacks. Recent research from the American Cancer Society suggests coffee may reduce incidences of several kinds of cancer. Coffee can also improve memory, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University. Research funded by the National Institutes for Health even points to a link between drinking coffee and lower levels of depression. Since a happy, healthy office gets more done — and costs less money — this is all good news for employers.
Beyond the physical and mental benefits, coffee offers social advantages, as well. Coffee breaks give colleagues a chance to mingle and strengthen the bonds that are essential to productive teamwork. In fact, a few years ago, Bank of America adjusted break schedules in one of its call centers to allow more interactions between employees and quickly saw productivity improvements that translated into $15 million for the company, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Choosing the Right Coffee Maker
Despite the many ways coffee benefits the workplace, there are employers who don't provide their staff with this essential boost, leading employees to leave the office for their fix and potentially leaving work undone. A 2011 Staples study showed that coffee and snack runs account for 2.4 billion hours in lost productivity in their U.S. stores each year.
For office managers interested in capturing the full advantages of having great coffee in their facilities, there are more options than ever, each with their own pros and cons.
Classic drip coffee makers let you keep a supply of warm coffee on hand, ready to pour. They come in a range of sizes and styles, which makes it easy to find the right fit for your office or department. Models with two pots allow you to offer a flavored or decaf option in addition to the basic brew. The catch is that you might find yourself waiting for an entire pot to brew if the person who finished the last batch didn't start a fresh pot.
Single-serve coffee makers — the Keurig is the most well-known example — have the advantage of versatility. Brewing pods come in a mind-boggling array of flavors and styles, from half-caff medium roast to chai latte. These machines can generate a lot of trash in the form of empty brewing pods, however.
New in the coffee arena, specialty devices like the Ninja line offer add-on features that allow for further coffee customization. Many allow either single-cup or whole-pot brewing, and some allow you to adjust the strength of your coffee (including a setting for iced coffee). The most advanced even offer built-in frothers for cafe-style latte creations. The highly personalized systems may be unnecessarily complex for a workplace with more straightforward coffee needs, but your employees may appreciate and use them. It all depends on your culture.
Not sure what kind of equipment is best for your office? Ask employees about their priorities. Would they rather have endless options or straightforward simplicity? Using employee feedback to shape your coffee plans not only helps you make the right choice, but also lets your workers feel heard and valued — that's one more benefit coffee can offer your office.