So, I’ve noticed lots of people at my work drink coffee. Some drink tea, some cola. I’ve also noticed that a lot of people who drink these things (coffee particularly) make various offhand comments about how they really need a coffee to get going, or to be alert or productive.

So, some questions for people who regularly have coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks:

  • If your work banned coffee, tea, cola, and any other caffeine, do you think you would be less productive?
  • If your work banned coffee, tea, cola, and any other caffeine, do you think the workplace as a whole would be less productive?
  • Do you think people who don’t take caffeine are less productive than people who do?
  • If yes, do you think it would be reasonable for an employer to want to choose between two otherwise equally qualified candidates on the basis of whether or not they drink caffeine, on the assumption that the caffeine-drinker will be more productive?

You may have figured out that I don’t take caffeine. I actually kind of wonder: Am I less productive at work than I would be otherwise because of this?

9 Responses to “Caffeine”

  1. Yerushalmi says:

    I never drink coffee, and I’ve always assumed that coffee provides a short-term boost to your productivity the first few times you drink it, after which, because your body becomes dependent on it, you need to drink it merely to reach the standard, natural level of productivity that everyone else attains naturally.

  2. Morgan Eklöf says:

    I think most people, coffee drinkers or not, overappreciate the psycoactive effects of caffeine. I, as a devoted coffee drinker, do not think i would do a different work if I just stopped having coffee.

    But there is more to having a coffee than just drinking coffee. It is a break from whatever you are doing, and it is a social ritual that is propably more mindset-changing than the drug itself: you have programmed yourself to associate a certain set of feelings to a certain set of motions and a certain, distinctive taste. When your colleagues say that they need a cup, they propably need this ritual more, and as such, you could (and do?) propably attain more or less the same effect without the caffeine.

    Caffeine do give a higher level of attentiveness for a while, and can absolutely help slightly if you are tired, but I am sure that it is far more active as a social tool than a chemical one.

  3. GAZZA says:

    Don’t particularly like the taste of coffee, but drink it occasionally. Drink tea probably once or twice a day. Drink Coke Zero more often than that, probably a couple of times a day.

    There’s no way my office could ban it effectively since I work from home (and they’d never know); but frankly I doubt it would lower anyone’s productivity. Personally I’d be concerned about a workplace that wanted to pass a rule as invasive as whether or not my soda is allowed to have a (perfectly legal, and largely harmless) drug like caffeine in it, but if I was desperate enough for a job or if the rewards were sufficient, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

    I’ve drunk caffeine free Coke though, I don’t mind it – just harder to find. I don’t think the amount of caffeine in your typical coffee or cola drink really has that big an effect physically; certainly if you hate the taste you’re not going to drink it just to wake up. So no, I don’t think that people who prefer caffeine free drinks are less productive. Then again, I’d be surprised if nobody’s ever studied that, so why guess?

  4. I guess “banning” was too strong a word. The question I was really asking was “hypothetically, if it were not possible to have caffeine at work, would people be less productive?”

    And indeed, some quick searching brings up articles like these:

    Answer seems to be it doesn’t really have a significant long-term effect either way.

  5. Chance says:

    IMO, Coffee has no effect on productivity, other than the ability to work late nights. Personally, I like the taste and smell of coffee. Every year, though, I go through a two week “coffee fast”. I just hate the idea of being addicted to anything, so I quit for two weeks.

  6. Chris Adams says:

    I drink a lot of caffeinated soft drink but it doesn’t have any effect on my alertness/wakefulness/productivity/whathaveyou. It doesn’t keep me awake in the evenings nor does it perk me up in the mornings.

    I assume that either my metabolism is too slow for caffeine to have an effect I can notice, or that people who “need” coffee to work are just psychologically reliant upon the ritual, as Morgan suggests.

  7. Stephan says:

    I used to drink tea regularly but I never found it enhanced or impeded my performance. I find the thing that most affects my performance is lack of sleep. I hear cafeine is a good way to temporarily negate the effects of lack of sleep to an extent, though I prefer to just sleep instead.

  8. mookers says:

    What Morgan said. Don’t get between me and my coffee, because I really like my coffee. :)

  9. So, I don’t drink coffee, and I have worked until “WHY AM I STILL AWAK£(&*%8754” o’clock for a while. I find that the lack of caffeine didn’t mean that I couldn’t have done it.

    While there is a buzz from coffee, I think that the placebo effect is an element. As you say in the article, people think they need something to get them started. This becomes a ritual / excuse.

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