How Coffee Can Help Improve Your Relationships at Work

How Coffee Can Help Improve Your Relationships at Work

One of the biggest challenges to a happy work life is getting along your co-workers. So what’s the secret to a healthy, functional team at the office? There’s no panacea, of course, but another kind of “daily grind” can help—great coffee.

The Office Runs on Coffee

A full pot of fresh coffee means energetic employees, networking opportunities and camaraderie; an empty one can mean lethargic work and monotonous replies. Sixty-five percent of workers drink coffee on the job—an average of three cups daily. It’s also well-known that the coffee station is the new water cooler—connecting with coworkers, networking with other teams, or just simply catching up after the weekend—coffee is where it happens. It fuels a positive office environment, which fuels productivity in the workplace. This MIT study affirmed that workers who were allowed to take their coffee breaks at the same time had improved performance back at their desks.

So having established that coffee is essential at the workplace, how can you use it to improve your relationships with your coworkers? Your first approach might be simply to bring them coffee.

The Personal Touch

Coffee builds rapport. Never has someone felt worse as a result of a coworker tapping on their door with a fresh cup—it might just be your simplest (and cheapest) way to their heart. In 2008, researchers at the National Institute of Health studied the psychological effects of holding a warm cup of coffee in one’s hand. They observed that participants tended to attribute warm feelings to strangers and even found them more trustworthy. A second part of the study used hot and cold therapeutic pads as the variable, and found that those who handled hot pads more likely to choose a gift for a friend than for themselves. The researchers surmised that “‘warmth’ is the most powerful personality trait in social judgment, and went on to conclude that warm objects promote warm feelings toward others.

Endear Yourself

If the coffee station is ground zero for employee refueling and relaxing, why not nominate yourself as unofficial Café Manager? Start a new pot if the first one has run dry; make sure the half-and-half carafe is full; dampen a few paper towels to wipe down the counters. Maybe it’s not your job, and it’s less than glorious, but it will sure make you popular.

Turn That Acquaintance into A Friend

Coffee breaks allow colleagues to bond, which can make all the difference in a stressful work environment. In a study by the psychology journal Symbolic Interaction, researchers observed groups of Danish employees at a company that had recently undergone a large-scale merger. Workers would gather in the morning to vent their frustrations and bond over shared negative experience, which had a “depressurizing” coping effect. When the company eliminated the 15-minute break, workers began gathering spontaneously. Noticing this, the company wisely allowed the impromptu meetings to continue. Dr. Pernille Stroebaek from the University of Copenhagen remarked that “coffee breaks have important social, and potentially monetary, value for organizations…[they] should be treated as communal practices that allow communities of coping to develop.”

Coffee isn’t just for waking up and energizing at work—it’s a social lubricant which can create real, meaningful connections with your co-workers, your boss, and your employees—connections which can help you get ahead and enjoy work to its fullest!


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