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Why caffeine is impacting your employees' mental clarity

By 
Hannah Foladi
 – 
October 1, 2023

A tea or coffee first thing is considered a standard part of many workers' morning routines. However, whilst caffeine is often seen as a standard ‘pick me up’ ritual, consuming moderate amounts of caffeinated drinks can be detrimental to long-term productivity with a recent UK study of 2000 adults finding ¼ of coffee intake happens within the workplace, employers should be considering which choice of drinks their employees have to hand.

We explore how caffeine impacts mental clarity in the short and long term and why caffeine may be something to avoid if you want your employees to be productive in the long term.

The caffeine boost

Tea and coffee are often the drinks of choice in the workplace - people associate them with raising energy levels and alertness. Caffeine works by taking up adenosine receptors. These receptors usually signal to the brain and body when you’re tired, making you slow down, so caffeine tricks the body into thinking it has more energy than it does. A “full” tank of energy = all systems go. This is the initial boost many people are aware of, and why caffeinated drinks are often thought of as a benefit to productivity.

So why is this a problem? The body can only go a short time before realising it doesn’t have the energy stores it thought it did. Cue the caffeine crash! The body has been running at full steam believing its energy reserves are full, so, once all of its current energy has been used up, the body has to tap into stored reserves of energy, resulting in inflammation

For your employees, that slump in energy can mean people struggle to get through the working day.

Caffeine jitters

People's sensitivity to caffeine varies, but many of us will be familiar with “the caffeine jitters”. Caffeine boosts the amount of the hormone adrenaline released in the body. Adrenaline is part of our ‘fight or flight response’ and is what gives us that burst of energy, pushing the body to increase heart rate, and blood circulation, it burns immediate sources of energy, and increases focus and attention. However, this surge from our central nervous system can leave us feeling anxious or nervous ie. the jitters phenomenon. 

This causes stress on the body meaning we need time and energy to recover. But because the body has already used up all its stored energy (the result of the adenosine receptors being blocked), we might be tempted by another coffee for a quick fix, and so the cycle repeats!  As an employer, you can help your employees avoid the swings in energy levels and avoid stimulation of their ‘fight or flight’ stress response by providing non-caffeinated drinks whilst at work like squash, cordial, flavoured waters, hot chocolate, herbal teas and green tea.

Goodbye, body clock!

We all know the drill - late-night deadline chasing often leads to an overconsumption of caffeine! However, caffeine in the evening has been shown to impact the body’s circadian rhythm by shifting the internal body clock, making waking up in the morning even harder. If you want your employees to come in feeling refreshed and ready to start their day, help them to cut the caffeine in the evening - this might be by setting expectations of work/life balance or equipping the team with time-management skills.

The unpleasant side effects of stimulants

Caffeine acts as a stimulant meaning it speeds up the activity in some of the body’s systems. Whilst a fast-wired brain might seem like a bonus for productivity, this can have negative effects at the workplace - both short-term and long-term. A stimulated bladder means caffeine drinkers are more likely to need to urinate quicker, meaning more toilet breaks. Similarly, certain medical conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, irregular heartbeat and insomnia can be sensitive to caffeine.

The summary - in espresso form

Caffeine gives us a false boost, instead of giving us energy, it masks our fatigue and true energy levels at the cost of our future energy stores. Long-term effects can negatively influence sleep cycles, impact health conditions, and cause inflammation so the short-term boost in energy may not be worth it in the long run

If you want to help your employees cut the caffeine, we recommend:

  • Have water fountains/dispensers in a visible, closer location than the tea/coffee-making facilities
  • Offer a range of non-caffeinated drinks such as squash, cordial, flavoured waters, hot chocolate, herbal teas and green tea
  • Offer branded company water bottles
  • Stock decaf tea and coffee in bulk; whilst decaf tea and coffee still contain some caffeine, it will be a start at reducing caffeine intake overall.

At Surgery Hero our health coaches are on hand to help your employees create good, long lasting habits to help them prepare for, and recover from surgery faster. These long term habits mean they’re more focused at work, returning to work faster after an operation and can rest assured that you’ve got their best interests in mind.

Get in touch with us to find out more: hello@surgeryhero.com

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