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Culture of the Tea Break

Culture of the Tea Break

The tea break, a most British pastime is considered by many employers to be a nuisance. A period of time where no work gets done and an unnecessary expense. Studies show that an average worker takes 24 minutes per day to make or fetch tea or coffees. This can cost the business 190 days of productivity over the course of an employee’s lifetime. But is this a cost businesses should worry about, or does the great British tea break ultimately make workers more productive?

Origins of the Tea Break

Tea breaks remain an important part of office life today but it all started at the turn of the 19th Century. Workers would typically start their day at around five or six AM so employers would let them have a break in the morning to eat and drink tea. It was seen as a way to boost productivity and some employers also repeated the break in the afternoon.

At the time of the industrial revolution (1760-1820) employers wanted to put a stop to tea breaks as they thought that drinking tea and taking breaks made workers sluggish.

Afternoon Tea

In 1840 the idea of afternoon tea was introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Anna found she was getting hungry around four o’clock. Lunch was at midday and dinner wasn't served until eight o’clock so she asked for sandwiches, cake and tea to be served. She started inviting her friends to join her and soon, afternoon tea became fashionable amongst the upper and middle classes.

Tea Breaks and Health

A tea or coffee break, unlike the more formal lunch break is a short period of time when a worker can pop and get a drink, maybe have a quick chat with colleagues and just get away from the desk for a few minutes.

In this country workers are required by law to have at least one 20-minute break if they work for six hours or more a day. This is to ensure an employee’s health and safety, especially in situations where they are using machinery or in other dangerous work environments. The tea break has also been shown to increase productivity.

In a recent study 2,000 workers across the UK were asked about their tea breaks and it was discovered that 76% feel they’re too busy to take a proper tea break. Tea breaks used to be seen as an important social activity in the office but are now seen as a waste of productive time.

However, getting away from work for a short break has been shown to actually increase productivity in workers and not only that, the social aspect of the tea break can improve bonding with colleagues in the workplace and boost morale.

Traditional tea breaks are becoming less common as workers tend to grab food and drink on the go but it’s important that businesses take note of the benefits of the tea break. A short break every day can lead to a happier, healthier workforce.
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