Bean counters brace yourselves: the price of coffee just rose to a high not seen in 2½ years. Currently topping $2.20 a pound for arabica coffee (found in most gourmet blends) the price is expected to remain high as dry weather persists in Brazil, the source of half the world’s arabica beans.
When a coffee machine is pretty standard fare in any company break room, the surging cost can put a dent in the balance sheet. But what’s a financial executive to do when faced with a staff who rely on a steady caffeine drip in order to sustain productivity? Pulling the plug in hopes that they’ll shuttle off to the local java joint and plunk down their own cash is one strategy, but Mid-Market Pulse has rounded up a selection of alternative productivity boosters that in some cases, don’t cost a cent.
First, A Good Reason Not to Drink Coffee First Thing
We all might think we’re zombies in the morning until after the first double shot of espresso, but science suggests it’s all in our heads. In fact, a study from the University of Sheffield found that the hormone cortisol (often called the “stress” hormone, but actually the one that regulates mental alertness) is highest between 8 a.m and 9 a.m., right about when most people are getting to their desks. But having a cup of coffee during that time can send cortisol spiking, triggering a glucose release present in the fight or flight response. That burst has no where to go in an office, and, over time, this constant flood of glucose could lead to diabetes and other health problems.
Take a Walk
Sitting is the new smoking, we’ve come to learn. Spending too many hours on our rears, staring at a computer screen, can cause a variety of chronic diseases, not to mention death. Sitting is also a drag on productivity, especially when you hit the inevitable slumps that occur throughout the day. To hit the internal refresh button without coffee, step away from the desk and go for a walk. Indoors or out (no excuses) researchers at Stanford found that creative thinking gets a boost from putting one foot in front of the other for as little as 5 to 16 minutes. That effect continued even after the study subjects went back to work.
Take a Break
Our bodies move to the beat of two internal rhythms. One is the circadian rhythm that stimulates us to wake up or nod off. The other operates throughout the day and night. As sleep researcher Nathan Kleitman discovered, the 90-minute cycles that move us through the five stages of sleep from drowsy to dreaming to deep, are also present during the day as we move from peak performance to suspend. The best antidote to a lull in brain activity, then, isn’t a cup of coffee but a rest. Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Everything, found that taking a break every 90 minutes helped his productivity so much, he penned The Way We Work Isn’t Working in just six months, writing no more than four and a half hours per day.
Take a Power Nap
When the urge to close your eyes during that late afternoon lull gets too strong, listen to your body. Managing fatigue is an important part of maintaining productivity and having a snoozing strategy while on the job could be just the jolt needed to push through the rest of the day. A NASA study on napping discovered that working memory improved after a short amount of shut-eye, while another, earlier study of commercial pilots demonstrated their alertness improved by as much as 54 percent – no cream or sugar required.