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Published on December 11, 2020

Does Coffee Really Improve Work Performance? [Experiment + Infographic]

Does Coffee Really Improve Work Performance? [Experiment + Infographic]

It’s hard to imagine an office without a coffee machine. If you recall the morning atmosphere in a standard pre-pandemic office environment, you’d probably think of several colleagues standing around a coffee machine chatting or heading to a meeting with a coffee mug in their hand.

For most, this is not their first coffee of the day. The majority of people reach for a cup of the energizing brew soon after they open their eyes in the morning – 65% of all coffee is consumed during breakfast hours.[1]

Coffee is not only a cult drink but also an industry with millions of jobs worldwide related to its production, distribution, and serving. With 64% of Americans drinking at least one cup of joe per day,[2] coffee has become a staple of everyday work life – be it in the office or in a remote work setting.

The Experiment: Coffee Machine + Productivity Tracker

Even the smell of coffee stimulates energetic and productive vibes. But how much of the coffee phenomenon is just our imagination and self-suggestion? And how substantial is the scientific part behind it?

That’s what we set out to find out with an office experiment (conducted before the pandemic and the remote work wave). We used the Draugiem Group as a sample base – an office space with approximately 150 employees of different tech-based companies. As all the people in this office use DeskTime productivity tracking software and almost all of them drink coffee, we decided to explore how coffee impacts their performance.

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We connected the office coffee machine to a telemetry device[3] that counted the number of coffees made and at which times during the day. Later we cross-referenced the peak coffee consumption times with the spikes in work performance from the DeskTime software. The experiment lasted for a week.

The Results: Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

In one day, an average of 215 coffees are consumed within the Draugiem Group office. With just over 100 employees, that averages out to about two coffees per employee. But what did we learn when cross-referencing coffee drinking stats with data from productivity tracking software?

First of all, we confirmed that coffee does increase the overall work performance of office workers. Productivity levels soared for most of the people right after drinking coffee, peak consumption times being around 9am, and then again roughly at 12:30am.

However, the productivity upsurge didn’t last long.

Within 2.5 hours after coffee consumption, employee work performance levels went as low as they possibly could – even lower than before workers set out to make their coffees. This means that coffee could provide only a temporary productivity boost.

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Does Science Agree?

Scientists have long-since touted the benefits of coffee – the energy boost thanks to caffeine, the antioxidants that stave off the damage caused by free radicals. However, coffee has also been known to have negative effects – dehydration, insomnia, and addiction, to name a few.

The results of our experiment are in line with what scientists say about coffee’s impact on productivity. Caffeine has been proven to provide a short-term increase in cognitive performance after being ingested. 200mg of coffee has been found to help identify words and phrases faster.[4]

However, this effect wears off in time. Our findings support that, in fact, the post-caffeine slump is inevitable and a tangible thing. And rather than returning to your beginning position of productivity, you dip far below your default caffeine-less self.

Coffee can be seen as a temporary solution for reducing the feeling of tiredness and enhancing brain performance.[5] However, similar to nicotine addiction, caffeine addicts are rarely brought back to their average comfort & energy levels after the initial boost dies down. Instead, their energy – and productivity – levels keep falling until the next cup of coffee saves the day.

How Coffee Impacts Your Productivity [Infographic]

This infographic will help you understand how coffee works and how it impacts your productivity.

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    How to Consume Caffine Smartly and Improve Work Performance

    We credit caffeine to start our day, often citing it as a driving force behind our ability to work. No wonder coffee has become the most pervasive drug throughout America, with 25% of coffee drinkers identifying as addicted to coffee.[6]

    That said, there’s no harm in drinking coffee if you do it smartly and with moderation. Follow these tips to benefit from your relationship with caffeine:

    1. Study your own productivity routine and choose to drink coffee at times when you feel you need it most.

    Record the times when you drink coffee and note the effects that it has on you. If you feel more alert and productive, how long does this effect last? If a couple of hours later you feel lower than ever, does the next cup of coffee bring instant recovery?

    Also, choose to drink coffee between 10 and 11:30 AM and between 2 and 5 PM, when your cortisol levels dip naturally. Your body will most appreciate a caffeine boost at these times.

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    To improve your memory, drink a cup of coffee right after a learning event (not before).

    2. Substitute coffee drinking with a walk or exercise.

    There are many other ways to boost your productivity apart from drinking coffee. For example, a study of 10% most productive employees found that 52 minutes of focused work and 17 minutes of breaking is one of the most productive workday patterns.[7] There are also many office exercises that help your brain relax and reload while bringing many health benefits to your body.

    3. Switch to beverages that contain smaller amounts of caffeine.

    Tea is a good example and it offer plenty of benefits. You may want to consider green tea, oolong tea, or early grey tea.

    4. Next time you’re in a good mood, take a cup of joe to prolong that feeling.

    It is proven that coffee stimulates the release of dopamine that produces euphoria and pleasant feelings.

    Whatever your coffee-drinking habits, be careful not to find yourself inside a daily vicious circle pumped by caffeine!

    More About Coffee And Productivity

    Featured photo credit: BRUNO EMMANUELLE via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Ieva Sipola

    Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

    How to Change Your Mindset for a Happy And Successful Life Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress Does Coffee Really Improve Work Performance? [Experiment + Infographic] How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work How to Run an Effective One on One Meeting with Team Members

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2021

    How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

    How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

    You sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word (or Excel, or Office, etc.) and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

    You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes Youtube, 60 minutes gone. Before you know it, lunchtime has come and half the day is gone.

    Does this seem familiar? Do you ever find yourself wasting your day?

    Well it doesn’t have to be this way, all you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted easily.

    But before we move on to the tips, here’re some important notes you need to know:

    • Avoiding distraction is tough. You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?
    • You were never taught how to focus. It’s funny how all throughout our school days we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused, even though that’s all we did. It was just assumed, and ultimately it was hit or miss on whether or not you ended up knowing how to do those things at all.
    • The tools to help master your ability to focus. Since everyone’s left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus ability. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to accomplish for ourselves.

    So without further ado, let’s get started. 

    1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

    First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled guitar player? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start working from home?

    Think about it.

    Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

    2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day by Focusing on 2 to 3 Important Tasks

    If you have 20 tasks you need done everyday how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Terrible, right?

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    You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials.

    Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day (even one is okay), but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too early.

    3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

    In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early. This means as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

    So get up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast, and do it (Yes, BEFORE work is the best time to do it).

    It’s tough, but waiting to do them only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions WILL come, and they will drain your willpower. This makes working on your goals harder to do, so don’t wait do work on your goals, do them as early as possible.

    4. Focus on Only the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

    An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take FOREVER to do.

    This will cause you to do one of two things:

    • You become discouraged because the goal is too big; or
    • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal

    Either way is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

    So what should you do? Focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work instead.

    For example, which seems easier:

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    Writing 200 words per day or writing a minimum of 2 sentences per day?

    20 pushups per day or a minimum of 1 pushup per day?

    The key here is to use minimums. Chances are you’ll push past them.

    Eventually your minimum will increase, and you’ll slowly improve your ability to stay focused on the bigger tasks.

    5. Visualize Yourself Working

    I briefly mentioned in tip #4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. But there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually WORKING (not as if you’ve succeeded already).

    Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.

    A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

    For instance, if you need to practice your guitar but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

    First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

    Then repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations “ready your body” for each step you need done.

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    All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on, just start with the smallest motion you need to do.

    6. Control Your Internal Distractions

    Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts as well.

    A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work related thoughts.

    Simple enough, right? When you take breaks make sure to leave your work station, that way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free as well.

    Deadlines are useful here also (use Pomodoro method for example, see tip #9). This method helps keep your mind from wandering around since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

    Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. So instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done (anything!). Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts will be about finishing your task.

    7. Remove External Distractions

    This tip is straightforward, just get away from things that distract you.

    Is the television a distraction? Work in another room. Are the kids distracting you? Get up earlier and work before they wake up. Is the Internet distracting? Turn off the modem.

    It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

    8. Skip What You Don’t Know

    This is a tip I don’t see often enough, if you hit a snag in your work then come back to it later. Focus your attention on what you CAN do, keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

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    Eventually you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

    9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

    There’s a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

    The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. Think about it, you’re literally just sitting there doing nothing. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions. You should definitely give meditation a shot.

    The second exercise is the Pomodoro method. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, so it’s more than worth your time to try this out.

    10. Manage Your Momentum

    Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

    This means each and everyday we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task‒but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

    For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is get healthy, then go for a short 5 minute walk even on Christmas day.

    Nothing big, nothing crazy, only stuff that is significant enough to contribute to the success of your overall goal.

    More Tips on Staying Focused

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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