Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Life by Sam Huleatt

The Social Dynamics of Office Coffee Pots

Let’s talk about the role of coffee in the workplace.

For many years what our generation calls the ‘water cooler’ was actually the coffee pot. During our parents’ generation, someone in the office would literally brew a pot of coffee and then everyone would go grab a mug’ it was a social atmosphere. Each office had its own coffee ‘rules’ and etiquette.

However, culture has changed.

If you go to a Target or any big retailer looking to purchase a coffee maker, 50% of what you see are coffee makers designed for ‘pods.’ Here is an article suggesting the death of drip coffee makers. So what? Technology changes, right?

Yes, technology changes, but in this case, so too does culture. What is interesting is that pods only brew INDIVIDUAL cups of coffee. Gone is the idea of the pot designed for a group; gone are many of the corresponding social interactions.

Going a step further, many people vacate the office altogether for their daily coffee fix. These people opt for Starbucks or Caribou. If you are one of these people, do you normally go with co-workers, or is your coffee excursion meant as an escape from the office? People talk all the time about how the office is “more collaborative than ever before,” but what are about the quality of office relationships?

Thus, culture changes. Culture is also reinterpreted. Take for example, the portable music device. When the Walkman first debuted in Japan, the Japanese intended it to be a device used to enhance politeness by not bothering other people. On the other hand, Americans primarily use their iPods to ignore and/or entirely avoid human interaction even despite the inherently social nature of music. L Train passengers are an anomaly.

Update: This post and its concepts were featured in this Financial Times article and then inspired an additional follow-on article

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  • http://www.ft.com Stefan Stern

    Sam,
    A really smart and insightful post.
    With a hat tip, I hope to explore this subject in a future column in the FT.
    Best wishes,
    Stefan Stern (still taking my Lavazza meds)

  • http://www.leveragingideas.com Sam

    Stefan, that would be great! I am a huge FT fan. The Journal is great, but it doesn’t reflect the global economy like FT does.

    Sam

  • http://flavorbean.com/store/index.php?mktsrc=home Flavored Coffee

    That was an interesting read. I have been trying to use a press lately :) It is ultimately easier to clean.

  • http://www.spy--gear.org Spy Gear

    This is so true…it could be cuz the pod machines are so much noisier, it gets a little hard to talk over the noise, at least in my office space. Though I find the complexity of cleaning it is a social activity in itself, quite a bonding experience haha

  • http://www.bestcoffeemakerz.com/ Best Coffee Makers

    I guess it just depend on how you see it. Sure, pods type coffee makers may reduce social interactions just like Ipod to avoid human interaction but it's more than just culture, I think it's more about what a person wants from a society. Spending some quality time alone isn't such a bad idea…

  • http://www.thecoffeeparlor.com/ Bill

    Very true, Coffee pots are evolving like everything else in this world! haha

  • http://www.resveratrolyes.com/resveratrol-ultra-reviewed/ Resveratrol Ultra

    The only bad thing about coffee, is that it is a good reason for workers to take a break. Breaks are definitely good, but some people overdo it (especially where I work).

  • http://www.extremesteam.biz/upholstery-cleaning Steam Cleaners

    Coffee was really become a part of our daily lives.. In house, work etc… Now.. There is a new way of enjoying coffee.. Did you try iced cold coffee???

  • thermalcarafecoffeemakers

    That is interesting. I wonder if part of the reason for the “pod” trend is the soundbyte culture. People want everything to immediate and already prepared for them. They don't want to worry about measuring coffee grinds, etc. They want somebody else to do the thinking for them.

  • burrcoffeegrinders

    It's true, coffee is a huge aspect of the workplace. Unfortunately, the coffee at my workplace is terrible, which forces many to go outside the office to get their fix. It might be a generation thing, but at the same time, a lot of workplaces have several different age groups and they're all used to different things. There's no “pot” in my office, as it's it is mass brewed then stored in a thermos (eeggh), but I still think the same “atmosphere” applies, as it's pretty much equivalent to “water cooler” talk, except the process of “getting” the coffee is different.

  • burrcoffeegrinders

    It's true, coffee is a huge aspect of the workplace. Unfortunately, the coffee at my workplace is terrible, which forces many to go outside the office to get their fix. It might be a generation thing, but at the same time, a lot of workplaces have several different age groups and they're all used to different things. There's no “pot” in my office, as it's it is mass brewed then stored in a thermos (eeggh), but I still think the same “atmosphere” applies, as it's pretty much equivalent to “water cooler” talk, except the process of “getting” the coffee is different.

  • dsarge

    Coffee is definitely a part of the culture where I work. Instead of smoke breaks we have coffee breaks.

  • dsarge

    Coffee is definitely a part of the culture where I work. Instead of smoke breaks we have coffee breaks.

  • keurigreviews

    Some thoughtful points raised in your article. Our office has a single serve machine, but we all vacate our desks together, knock up a cup each, then sit around and chat over the coffee. I suspect the quality time comes from sharing the enjoyment of the drink more than the method in which it is prepared.

  • http://thermalcupcoffeemaker.com/ mosuskkel

    You can simply slip a small individual Coffee pod into the machine make your cup of coffee and then throw the pod away.

  • http://coffeeofthemonthclub.net/ Coffee Clubs

    I agree. Everything in this world is going instant like coffee makers are now innovating making it more convenient and necessities are now going portable.

  • http://www.wbsonline.com/ WinmarkBusiness

    Being self employed, this is one of the things I really miss about working in an office with others. Walking to the coffee pot was always a social activity and helped me get to know others in the company that i otherwise didn't see that much. It was productive from both a work and personal standpoint.