Newsflash: Coffee Isn’t Good For Productivity

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Ahh, coffee. It’s the official wake up juice and the steady fuel to get you through a long day. It’s the perfect reason to catch up with a friend, and the great excuse to meet with a client and potentially win some business.

Statistics show that coffee is the most popular beverage worldwide with over 400 billion cups consumed each year in the United States alone. Just what is the magic behind the coffee appeal? In a study by Career Builder and Dunkin Donuts, 46% of workers claim they are overall less productive without their java, 20% of coffee drinkers claim that it allows them to better socialize with their co-workers and 10% say that it helped them focus before giving a presentation. There have been numerous studies to support claims that coffee can help prevent disease and promotes overall health and well-being (in moderation of course). But what is the real effect it is having on your productivity? Here are four reasons why your coffee addiction could be interfering with your work day.

You are dependent on coffee

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness. While studies have proved that caffeinated coffee improves cognitive performance such as your memory, attention span and ability to focus, they rarely take into consideration the consumption and habits of the average coffee drinker. Research from Johns Hopkins Medical School concludes that the reason why we perform better after our morning coffee is due to the fact that we are actually experiencing short term withdrawals and are essentially just ‘topping up’. It’s a vicious cycle and, quite worryingly, coffee addiction and coffee withdrawal are now recognized as mental disorders. So if you’re coming off coffee and experiencing withdrawals, your cognitive functions and mood are severely and negatively impacted. Therefore, you are only as productive as your coffee supply is plentiful.

Coffee can make you irritable and anxious

Drinking coffee triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is what causes the fight or flight survival response. What does that look like? Well, it means your behavior leans towards first response rather than rational response. So you may be doing your tasks quickly and seemingly with great precision focus, but you may also be rushing through the details and overlooking mistakes on account of speeding through. Also, the same clarity of thought effect coffee provides can also heighten awareness of noises and distractions which can in turn cause irritability and anxiety.

Coffee causes dehydration

Research has found that a high caffeine intake (more than 350mg during the working day) acts as a powerful diuretic and causes people to visit the toilet more frequently, which can lead to performance-zapping dehydration. If you only drink caffeinated drinks then you will become mildly dehydrated. At just 1% dehydration, workers begin experiencing decreased cognitive abilities, reduced concentration and alertness, and slower reaction times. Just 1% dehydration has been found to decrease worker productivity by 12%. The more dehydrated the worker becomes, the further his or her physical work capacity degrades, with 3-4% dehydration bringing about a 25-50% decline in worker performance according to this article.

Coffee keeps you up all night

All coffee and no sleep makes Jack a very tired boy. Coffee drinkers know one of the biggest side effects of habitual caffeine intake is the effect it has on our sleep cycle. Drinking too much coffee, and drinking so late in the day can have a negative impact on our ability to fall and remain asleep. Since it takes six hours for caffeine to exit the body, consuming more caffeine within that six-hour period extends its stimulatory effects. People who consume more than 400 mg of caffeine per day are usually taking in more than they can excrete in a day and this creates a highly stimulated central nervous system which can lead to chronic insomnia, daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating and irritability. Trying to stay on top of tasks when you have under-slept and are irritable is almost impossible. A lack of sleep makes learning difficult, leads to more mistakes, causes headaches and leads to more distractions.

If you’re worried about your coffee consumption and you’re interested in switching out your coffee vice for a healthier alternative, check out this great list of alternates.

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