Do Coffee Breaks Increase Productivity?

14 August 2014 / by Ashley Freeman

Do we need coffee to be productive? The 1.6 billion cups of coffee we collectively consume every day says we do!

Many of us can’t function without that first hit of caffeine in the morning.

However you take your black gold, it has long been the belief that coffee makes you more productive.

According to a survey carried out by Life Hack:


“46% of workers claim they are overall less productive without their java. 20% of coffee drinkers claim that it allows them to better socialise with their co-workers and 10% say that it helped them focus before giving a presentation.”


Those figures are far from conclusive.

The question we want to ask, is whether it is the coffee that increases productivity, or the break itself that allows space for fresh ideas and creativity?


Coffee And Productivity?


“Coffee breaks were associated with higher fatigue, not lower.”



Many working people will turn to caffeine, when their eyelids begin to droop and their concentration lapses, to help them mine a few more hours from the day. Caffeine is a stimulant, and is proven to keep you awake and allow you to work longer hours.

But does working longer hours mean greater productivity?


“Longer hours do not make you more productive, and can in fact have the opposite effect”

The International Labour Organisation


The logic that the more hours we work, the more work we get done is what made us pull all-nighters at University, and why your boss pulls you into work at weekends. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. You’ll get less done, and the work you do will be of poorer quality.

But what is really important, is not whether coffee can keep you awake at your desk for longer, but whether taking a break can improve creativity, collaboration and engagement.


A Fresh Perspective


“Our brains do need to have a little rest – they just can’t be on all the time. And it’s often in the breaks where you get your creative ideas.” 

Dr. Suzy Green, HR Daily


Some of our best ideas and brightest flashes of creativity come to us in the shower, in the car, or while sitting over a coffee. It is amazing what can happen when your mind is allowed to wander.

A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping them can lead to stress and exhaustion.

When it comes to fresh ideas, putting some distance between you and your work, can improve productivity dramatically. Removing yourself from the coalface for a while means that you will return to it recharged and refreshed.




“The simple act of sharing a coffee break is an opportunity to sit down, listen and learn”



Sitting over a coffee as a means of socialising, catching up on the issues of the day and sharing information is a social convention that dates back centuries. Some of the greatest ideas and movements in history were born in coffee shops.

The coffee break offers the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and speak freely without fear of scrutiny by managers and superiors. In a time when face-to-face interaction is becoming more rare, the chance to communicate in person is precious – it is always more effective than email, phone calls or video conferencing for exchanging information quickly and clearly.

People from different teams come together, encouraging cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Think about that the next time you are feeling guilty about popping out with a colleague for a quick espresso hit!