Over the holidays I drank way too much coffee. It seems a bit counter-intuitive. I had the chance to sleep in, I was visiting with family and friends, and just enjoying the happiness of the season. So why the need to caffeinate more than I do during work?
The answer has nothing to do with being sleepy or worn down, but rather has to do with a social phenomenon that is quickly disappearing: brewing a pot of coffee and drinking with others. In my own family, with roots in the Midwest, always seem to have a pot of coffee on. Relatives always just popping by, sometimes with a call to let us know, but usually just a knock on the door. Coffee was made, snacks are set out and conversation ensues, even if just for a half hour.
From speaking with my parents, it seems that up until recently breaks rooms in places of work served the same purpose. I remember visiting my mom, who worked at a high school. In her department there was a little break room, withs fridge, microwave, and yes a coffee pot. Usually whoever wanted coffee would out on the pot to brew, my mother often being the one to do so. However, once the aroma permeated the office, nearly everyone would pop by, taking a break and chatting about the business of the day, or even nothing at all.
The social phenomenon of the coffee pot break is not limited to just coffee, either. It's counterpart, still alive and well in the UK is the notion of 'tea time.'While pursuing my graduate studies in England I recall my college had tea-times, one at eleven and the other at half past two if I am not mistaken.
While I often missed the morning tea time due to classes, I was often back in college for the afternoon break. It, for me and many others, came to be a much looked forward to time where we could all, even if for fifteen minutes, could break the monotony of the day, come up for air and rejuvenate our minds and bodies with tea and a few chocolate covered cookies!
So why the nostalgia for communal coffee pots and tea pots. I was thinking about this when reading an article in St. Anthony Messenger's December issue about the rise in the individual serve cups, or even the permeation of coffees hops and Starbuck's all designed around the purpose to make coffee "just the way you like it.". But what, the article asks, are we loosing at the cost of the individual coffee, the single serve automatic, convenience?
Well think about it, if your workplace has one of these single serve coffee pots, when was the last time you took a break with another, just to have a few moments respite? When you refill your coffee, and head back to your desk, you may speak to someone, but it's always back to work, cup of coffee in hand. The one thing missing as we lose the idea of the break room, or the tea time, is a space where it is culturally acceptable for employees to stop, chat and have a bit of coffee before going on their way. What is missing is the exchange of ideas that occur when people come together for dedicated time each day to replenish their bodies and awaken their minds.
Unfortunately, I do not see workplaces going back to the notion of pots of coffee...it's not cost effective. Nor do I see US workplaces having a tea time, since it is not quite a part of culture here as it is in the UK. But within my household, friends are always welcome for a pot of coffee... No invitation, no texts, no call needed. Just some water, coffee, milk and sugar, stories and ideas. That gets me through the day.
Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time
Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.