Symbolic Interaction

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Edited by Scott Harris with Wayne Brekhus, Frances Pestello, Susie Scott, Greg Smith, and Dirk vom Lehn
Print ISSN: 0195-6086 Online ISSN: 1533-8665
Impact Factor: 0.667

September 16, 2013

Finding Comfort in Coffee Cups: Social Breaks Help Workers Cope with Workplace Stress

Coffee breaks are an important part of workplace culture as they provide a crucial coping mechanism for stressful work, according to new research from Symbolic Interaction. A group of public workers in Denmark were studied after a large-scale merger. The study found that the stress from their jobs and the merger was relieved by forming “communities of coping” during coffee breaks with coworkers.

These communities allowed for social interaction with fellow employees, allowing them to share both professional opinions and personal frustrations with their work. However, the study also found that these communities were difficult for a newcomer to enter due to their informal nature.

“Coffee breaks should not be considered a ‘waste’ of productivity,” said Dr. Pernille Stroebaek from the University of Copenhagen. “Coffee breaks have important social, and potentially monetary, value for organizations. Coffee breaks should be treated as communal practices that allow communities of coping to develop.”