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  • Brian Kinzie, MBA, SHRM-SCP

Coffee and the Office Workplace

cup of coffee next to laptop and newspaper

After contemplating the role of coffee in the workplace over my third cup this morning, I have concluded that this staple is the lynchpin that holds modern business together. Here are a few thoughts on how to leverage the beverage.

Never Take Away the Coffee

First, and most importantly – never, ever take away the free coffee service at your workplace. A business can slash perks, jack up insurance costs, freeze salaries, and even conduct some layoffs during rough times and still manage to retain its workforce if it can show a clear plan and path forward. But if cost reduction efforts include taking away the free coffee drip, employees will jump ship faster than almost anything else you do. Think back to the psychology standby of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the very base are physiological needs, like shelter, food, and water. You have to have all these basic needs in place before you can work your way up the pyramid of self-actualization (i.e. happy, productive employees). Taking away the coffee hits at the very base of the pyramid. Even though people are resistant to change, they will start making moves if that base is threatened. The coffee machine should be left alone until the bitter end. I’ve never seen a company go out of business because of coffee expenditures.

Coffee – the subconscious recruiting tool

Second, free coffee is a cheap recruiting tool. Over the years, I have walked hundreds of potential hires around the office as part of the recruiting song and dance. Inevitably, when I would say “and here is where we have the free coffee,” their eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning. It might sound stupid, but it adds to the warm fuzzy feeling you are trying to give people when they are job searching. Free coffee isn’t going to show up on someone’s list when they are deciding between two job offers, but it can absolutely subconsciously tip the scales. Can you offer some more gourmet selections like a dark roast, or perhaps take it up another notch with espresso offerings or a Keurig setup? Then go for it. Even if there is some cost associated with the more exotic offerings, it is appreciated by employees.

Coffee – conversation ice-breaker

Finally, coffee makes for interdepartmental dialogue. People congregate around the coffee machine. Yes, for those who are productivity obsessed, this might seem like wasted time. But inevitably conversations end up being work related, and these conversations are critical to the success of a business. Silos between departments are broken down during these moments. Friendly relationships are established. This is the invisible glue that holds companies together and helps create high performing teams. Thanks to coffee.

Don’t like coffee? Perhaps a cup of tea instead!

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