The UK’s growing love for gourmet coffee is mismatched with the vending machines and instant coffee seen in most workplaces today. With employee engagement levels slumping, could embracing coffee culture help employers give their business a pick me up?
In recent years, coffee culture has taken the UK by storm. Branded outlets punctuate our high streets, stands have sprung up on station platforms and the aroma of freshly ground beans now wafts through our service stations. However, our love of coffee is still growing. Last year the UK spent £7.9bn in coffee shops – a rise of 10% compared to the previous year.
Costa has the biggest high-street presence in this crowded market.  Yet, it’s no surprise fast food names like McDonalds and Greggs are joining the party. Greggs’ CEO Roger Whiteside explains “It doesn’t matter where you go, specialist chains, fast-food operators, we’re all looking to offer coffee because customers want it”. However, in this market consumers put quality first. Mr Whiteside continues, “If we want people to drink our coffee, it has to be as good as the coffee operators”.
For many of us, coffee and the workplace go hand-in-hand. It provides a welcome wake-up in the morning and offers a socially-acceptable break between tasks. So, it’s no surprise our preference for gourmet coffee isn’t confined to our social lives. Ben Forbes, Marketing Director at food services firm Sodexo, acknowledges “The hot beverage traditional vending market has contracted over recent years as more people are embracing the growing high street trend for fresh bean-to-cup coffee”. Given our growing desire for gourmet, would employers be advised to cater for employees’ tastes?
In one study, 85% of employees associated quality coffee and tea with “increased productivity and morale”. Meanwhile, a separate survey commissioned by office developers Goodman looked at factors contributing to individuals’ happiness at work; 40% sited a decent cup of coffee as a leading factor – second only to correctly working technology. It’s easy to be sceptical – if asked, who wouldn’t say they’d be better off with a brew? However, in the context of a today’s “employee engagement crisis”, employers may be wise to take heed.
In January 2016, global performance management organisation Gallup published some shocking findings on employee engagement levels. The research indicated only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, which Gallup defined as being “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. However, a study by the American Psychology Association suggests employers can reverse this if they can make staff feel valued; it linked this factor to a 60% increase in engagement.
When it comes to making staff feel valued, a recent survey correlated the perks businesses offer to higher retention. In terms of perks, once again coffee is high on the agenda. One survey indicated 37% of employees would choose free gourmet coffee or tea over an annual staff party. Meanwhile, 61% of employees associate good hot beverage options with employers caring about their well-being.
So, good quality coffee may improve relationships between employers and employees. Yet the perks for employers go further: coffee has also been associated with greater productivity and creativity amongst staff. Over 40% of workers claim to have had their “most productive ideas” whilst drinking coffee. Admittedly, it’s not a magical ingredient that creates this phenomenon – it’s the opportunity that coffee breaks and cafeterias provide for staff to interact, brainstorm and think creatively. As our working culture changes to accommodate flexible working, it is likely more of these moments will be realised.
Workplaces are increasingly moving towards flexible working, a trend which has blurred the boundaries between our home and work lives. This crossover is now being reflected in our workplaces, with employees introducing working styles from their personal lives to the office. This has led to an increased use of spaces such as cafeterias as informal meeting areas which foster creativity. The success of these setups has been acknowledged by the Harvard Business Review, which links these “spaces for small-group collaboration and interaction” to higher levels of engagement. Businesses are embracing the benefits of this increasingly popular style of working, which has been linked to the growing number of in-house coffee houses within businesses.
So, perhaps employers should take cues from today’s coffee culture if they want to enjoy the perks of better staff engagement and greater productivity.
Thinking of reviewing your teatime essentials? FacilitiesSuppliesTeam offers the full range of beverages and kitchenware to match your budget and requirements. Contact one of our facilities management specialists to discuss how we can help you embrace coffee culture in the workplace.