The team-building power of tea

Don't underestimate the importance of the humble brew.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 14 Oct 2019

How much do you get paid to make tea at work? According to the Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co’s nifty tool, as a London based media worker, making around 10 medium strength cuppas a day, the average Management Today staffer brings home around £8 daily brewing the team round.*

"I’m not paying you to make tea," the uncompromising boss might splutter, but don’t underestimate the power of the humble brew.

Drinking tea is believed to boost creativity. Researchers at Peking University monitored the creative output of students who had been given a cup of black tea to drink compared to those who were given water. After completing two tasks the students were judged by their peers (not involved in the experiment) on their "creativity" and "design". The tea drinkers scored higher on both, which the researchers credited to the levels of caffeine and theanine present in the black tea.  

There are obvious holes to be found in this methodology, but the consensus among some neuroscientists is that, in moderation, caffeine can have a positive impact on your brain. 

"People who drink three to five cups of coffee a day throughout their middle age years end up experiencing neuroprotective benefits," says neuroscientist Jack Lewis. 

But he warns that it can be "a double-edged sword", particularly where sleep is concerned. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, meaning it takes a quarter of a day to get rid of half of the caffeine in your system. So if you drink six cups of tea or coffee by noon, you’ll still have the equivalent of nearly three stimulating cups in your system by 6pm and the equivalent of one by midnight. 

Ultimately "sleep is the most important thing for your brain," says Lewis. 

But whether it’s caffeinated or not, the process of giving people time away from their desk to make tea, go to the water cooler or take a walk around the block is essential for wellbeing, concentration and ultimately productivity, says Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire. 

She highlights that while you don’t want to encourage people to stand around drinking tea every hour of the day, during those times in the kitchen staff are usually talking about work, networking or generally catching up with their colleagues. 

"Work isn’t just what you do when you’re sitting at your computer."

Kinman says we can learn something from the Swedish concept of Fika, essentially scheduled team-wide coffee breaks throughout the working day that bring people together in an informal way to bond or unwind from their work.  

"The most important thing is to make sure you involve your staff in those discussions before implementing them because if it feels imposed it won’t have the same effect," warns Kinman. 

From a boss’s perspective, showing Karen you know that she takes it milky and with six sugars (no matter how disgusting you think it is) or that Russell has a fondness for soya chai lattes is a useful way of making your team feel appreciated. Of course an occasional cuppa won’t fix anything if you promote an always-on culture.

It’s also important to set boundaries. An overly generous boss could soon find themselves making several hundred cups a day. That might do wonders for employee satisfaction, but one wonders what the daily rate is for that? 

*(well they would, if their editor didn’t make all the tea… - ed.). 


Image credit: Kypros via getty

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