Today marks International Coffee Day. I think this is the first year that this esteemed day is on my radar, perhaps because in the last year I have switched from an avid tea drinker and succumbed to coffee culture.

Coffee giant costa has been the first to seize the PR opportunity that is the worldwide day of coffee recognition by offering a free hot drink of choice all day from their express machines.  As if employees needed any more encouragement to take a coffee break, there’s another excuse to pop out and grab a freebie.

Coffee is not the culprit

Coffee and brew breaks have long been blamed for lost productivity in the workplace, who can recall that exact moment as you step away from your desk to go and grab a breather and that long awaited hot frothy latte, as being the precise moment you get a call or email that is apparently ‘urgent’. Then follows the walk of shame when you come back with red cup (thanks Costa and Starbucks at Christmas) in hand as you try and inconspicuously sit back at your desk going unnoticed as the assumptions begin that you spend all your time taking ‘coffee  and tea breaks’.

But is the routine coffee break being used as the scapegoat?  Surely there are many more blameworthy factors that take employees away from getting on with their work such as:

  • Colleagues
  • Emails
  • Online distractions
  • Meetings and trying to schedule and reschedule meetings
  • Procrastination

A survey a few years ago revealed that British workers spend on a significant number of working days each year chatting to colleagues, cups of tea and coffee, checking personal emails and on the internet, on personal phone calls, checking social media, running errands and smoking.

How can you prevent time theft in your business?

Rather than blame hot tea breaks, employers should think about practical ways in which they can reduce time wastage at work. Here are some recommendations:

  • Lead by example;
  • Clear stop and start times for tasks;
  • Minimise distractions;
  • Internet security (block social media and web based email sites);
  • Tailor email and internet use policies;
  • Set expectations and schedules;
  • Regular progress meetings;
  • Think about who is attending meetings and whether they need to be there;
  • Give longer or designated breaks;

For further advice on how to manage employees in your business, please feel free to contact me or a member of the Employment Team on 020 8363 4444.

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