It was 1955, when Phil Greinetz, the owner of a neck-ties company was struggling with his employees' work efficiency. The job required long hours of focus and it was very draining to complete. Consequently, the resulting amount of mistakes and the overall efficiency was very low. In addition to that, employee retention was difficult because everyone was burning out so fast that they would either quit or stay but be unhappy, unhealthy, and unproductive. This situation was equally bad for the employer and the employees and it was in desperate need of a solution.
We don’t know how exactly how the solution was first formulated, but we know that it came from the workers. They suggested coffee breaks. If they could have a coffee break in the morning and a coffee break in the afternoon, their ability to focus and their overall well being would go up. The idea was tested out and it proved to be effective. Without much delay Phil Greinetz implemented these coffee breaks and made them mandatory to all employees.
The idea spread like wildfire and many other companies started implementing it. It was difficult to keep these coffee breaks a trade secret because soon after it was implemented a lawsuit followed and Times Magazine covered it.
Should coffee breaks be paid or unpaid? As workers were encouraged to take this time as personal time, the employer should not be required to pay for it. On the other hand, by law at the time, any break of 20 minutes or less was considered paid time. With time, this conservation became somewhat irrelevant as the workers were paid per necktie they weaved and whether their coffee break was paid or not, they were able to produce more and make a greater income.
Nowadays, most companies welcome coffee breaks and even provide the coffee during paid hours, because it is an established well known fact that employees are more productive when they have a break for themselves or to socialize with coworkers over a cup of coffee.
It is understood that coffee has had a role with human performance and if I may say, flat-out human brilliancy. Coffee consumption is linked to the birth of the Enlightenment, the development of mathematics in the Middle East, the growth of industries in England, etc. Two elements have made that possible, its physiological impact in the human body (increased ability to focus, sharpened reflexes, etc) and its ability to bring people together whether at a coffee house or among guests at a home.
In addition to that, making coffee for each other, treating our coworkers and friends to a cup of coffee, or having someone surprise us with one or two cups, are all gestures of solidarity. Isn’t solidarity one of the most important virtues for human’s well being and overall happiness? It reminds us that others care for us and we care for others. A pillar of healthy communities.
And that my friends, if another coffee success story about how coffee has aided people and our institutions. Helping create the world as we know it and enjoy it. Keep working hard and playing hard, but never forget to take your coffee break.