Make that Coffee-Breaks Work – Killer Productivity Hack for Team Building

Make that Coffee-Breaks Work – Killer Productivity Hack for Team Building

Make that Coffee-Breaks Work – Killer Productivity Hack for Team Building

Sam was a manager in a corporate managing a team of 8 under him. Staring at him was everyday problems of team building – productivity, motivation, and bonding. He had noticed broken groups within the team, fractured communication channel and the team not having each other’s back. Added to it was stress, demanding individual personal lives of his team.

If you have been in Sam’s shoes; or if you are able to understand this situation by being an in-member of the team, this is for you. Teams are simple to manage but not easy. People management is by far the most understated skill in the resume, and it takes time to get the hang of it. Fortunately, there are scores of studies that help us manage a team, manage a person or even managing oneself. This knowledge comes a long way and has a seen a success rate better than any other.

Team-building is essential, there is a need for a team in almost any task – right from call-centres to event managers, to hospitals to creative teams. In a word that is going agile, the need for quick rapport, understanding and communicating is essential to meet that set goal.

The first question is – what is essential for team-building? Commitment, co-operation, connections, adaptability, conflict management. Indeed, all of these but that thread that makes all this work is communication. With effective communication, you as a leader or as a team-member can foster a sense of commitment in your team, embrace connections, adapting to change and resolving conflicts easier. It doesn’t just end there.

Sit back and think about the best team you have ever worked with. What made you like that team? I bet it is the rapport you had with your team. That is the advantage of working in great teams, despite gruelling days, the team makes you look forward to coming to work every day.

So how does this happen? What is that secret ingredient?


The secret ingredient is the manner of communication rather than the content of the communication. In a study conducted by MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory in an attempt to understand how and why teams work, surprising insights were revealed. To facilitate this study, bank’s call-centre was chosen and all employees were given a badge to wear all day. This badge would collect and transmit all aspects of individual communication behaviour— the tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to and how much, and more. Over six weeks surprising patterns revealed that the productivity of a team was fostered through engagement and interaction outside of formal meetings. To try and test these results, the manager of the call centre was asked to align the coffee breaks of all employees to the same time. This allowed the team to socialize with their teams for a longer period of time, and more importantly away from their workstations.

The results spoke for itself. Average Handling Time, a key metric for call-centre business was reduced by more than 20% especially with lower-performing teams. and a noticeable 8% decrease at the overall level. This motivated all supporting call-centres to adapt to the single time break schedule and there is a forecast of $15 million a year in productivity increases. The benefits are not just monetary, but also the employee satisfaction at call centres increased and sometimes by more than 10%.

This study shows the importance of breaks during a work-day. In India, a growing trend is to have lunch at the desk, to be chained to the desk all day. Sometimes this sadly marks a ‘model’ employee. But this comes with its own flip side – stress, seclusion and isolation which plays a major role in the noticeable decline of productivity. This also induces other team members to become lethargic.

There are many teams who never go out together, share a meal, have a lunch or dinner where they just get to unwind and socialize. The lack of personal connect within the team hinders performance, the team members feel that the team does not have their backs, and this sense of belonging happens in much smaller groups. This makes sub-teams within a team and unfortunately, due to an unhealthy environment, it pulls down productivity.

Rest assured that taking a break together is surely never going to make every aspect of the team better, but it sure can encourage team building. As interactions go personal, or opinionated, a team member gets to understand each other better. This helps to foster trust, understand where each of them is coming from and foster healthy friendships.

As you encourage your team to take up coffee-breaks together, why not make it healthier as well. Order healthy snacks for your team/organization and get the most out of your break time.

Happy Team Building.

Source: Harvard Business Review – The New Science of Building Great Teams

Keywords: Break, Productivity, Team Building

LongTail – Productivity Hack for Team Building

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