How important is a great cup of coffee to your company’s employee engagement?

Clearly not every business can afford to have a cafeteria like Google.   And everybody can’t stock every break-room with Peet’s or a super-expensive espresso machine.  But what about having a good, simple cup of java?  And how important is this to business anyway?  To find the answer, we started by asking our users at @WorkersCount whether they felt they are getting great coffee at their offices.  We then we asked a series of employee engagement experts about this information and the implications.

So let’s start with the results. As you can see in the graph below, only about 41% of WorkersCount users are frequently happy with their coffee at work.  And about 36% are sometimes happy with it. So our conclusion is that 59% of @WorkersCount users say they are not often excited about the quality of their office coffee, and by extension the “coffee talk” around it.

Engagement Experts Say:

One expert said, “go to any office environment and you will notice that many of the employees bring coffee with them, spurning the free stuff you offer them.”  This often means that they stopped at Starbucks, Peet’s, or Dunkin’ Donuts—good news for those businesses.  This expert went onto say that usually this is because commuting has become so lengthy that many employees simply can't wait until they get to the office to have their shot of Java.  Not much you can do about that.

But what’s the big deal about having mediocre coffee on hand in your break room?  The big deal is that coffee is often a social behavior as well as a dose of stimulant.  People get a chance to talk to one another.  People from different departments and working groups often exchange thoughts, have impromptu discussions and learn a lot about what’s happening during a quick break.  This is “the water-cooler” of today, and it’s not trivial.  You want those conversations and interactions to happen at the office, not necessarily down the block. 


Another expert said, "I am not at all “excited” by the coffee at work (nor at any previous workplace, for that matter); it is however a critical requirement to have, for employees to be productive. 

So while many workers will suffer dishwater-quality coffee because they have no quick (and free) options, you’ll make a huge impact on the quality of life in the office by making a few inexpensive changes to your “fueling station” and it’s supplies.   Don’t force them out of the building for a fix and a breather.

How much impact does a great cup of coffee have on engagement and retention?

The expert went on to say: “But before you pack away the free coffee, tea, hot chocolate or bottled water just to save a few bucks, keep in mind that these niceties represent powerful symbols about how companies view their workers as well as a barometer about the health of the company. Employees will always view the removal of free (and quality) coffee as a dramatic step...and a sign that something isn't quite right.

You may take it away (pardon the pun) to wake-up people, and get them to realize the seriousness of a company's financial predicament, but be careful.  If employees don't share your same sense of urgency, they will simply view management as “cheap.”  It’s not smart to use coffee as a stick or a carrot to motivate or get the attention of your workforce.  It will usually backfire.  Don’t get between a worker and their java! 

And remember, a good cup of free coffee means that each worker “saves” between $3 and $4 per cup, per day.  That can add-up for many of your top workers.  If it’s not coming out of your office budget, it’s coming out of their wallet.  And that’s not good for morale.


Coffee time as a tradition or ritual

Another expert said something really important. “If a manager/supervisor sits down and has a cup of coffee while talking with their people, then that's an important cup of coffee!”  If done right, it could become a ritual or tradition that people (even non-coffee drinkers) could get excited about.

So think twice about ignoring the value of a good cup of coffee and a good down-home tradition of coffee breaks as socialization, team-building and overall good times.  It’s a real American tradition and something worth keeping inside the building if you can.  If you have no facilities or just can’t pull it together for a good coffee station, consider bringing-in quality coffee hot from a local Starbucks, Peet’s or local merchant on regular days.  Your team will look forward to it, and it will be a fun experience. 

You are now free to talk amongst yourselves.