How Coffee Affects Productivity

February 08, 2020

Businessman working on computer over vintage wooden table top
Heather Parker

Does coffee make the world go round?

In America, it certainly seems to.

Over 90% of Americans consume caffeine in some form, be it coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks. However, coffee is the darling of energy boosters for most people, as it does seem to help increase energy and focus, especially while we’re at work.

Like anything in life, coffee has positives as well as negatives. Since coffee has been deemed an antioxidant it is considered healthy in small doses (although sugary additives like creamers and syrups negate these benefits). Yet coffee is also now linked with weight gain and obesity.

So as you’re headed to the office with your trusty sidekick in a cup in hand, you may be wondering, is coffee good for me? Does it really increase my productivity at work? Read below for some points (both negative and positive) to consider before you grab your next cup of joe.

Coffee may improve mental alertness and performance

The positive: Medical studies have shown that coffee blocks the hormone adrenaline, which causes drowsiness. This is why we feel an energy boost after we drink a cup. In low doses, caffeine also improves mental performance. However, because everyone’s tolerance is different, caffeine may not affect you the same way it does a coworker.

The negative: It is important to know that this boost in energy and mental performance is short-lived, and you may suffer from a crash later in the day. Too much coffee in one day will also tank your productivity, For most people, more than two cups mean irritability, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, muscle tremors, and even anxiety attacks--not the best frame of mind for productivity at work. According to the Mayo Clinic, keep coffee to two cups a day maximum (about 400 milligrams of caffeine).

Coffee may affect your sleep

The positive: In small doses, coffee should not affect sleep schedules, especially when it is consumed early in the day. Many people enjoy the boost coffee gives them upon waking to shake the grogginess that accompanies early mornings. To keep a healthy sleep schedule, limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee in the morning.

The negative: Consuming too much coffee during the day, however, can definitely affect your sleep cycles. Too much coffee late in the day or at night will keep you tossing and turning all night long, creating a vicious cycle of morning fatigue, excessive caffeine consumption during the day, and no sleep at night. Not getting enough sleep will definitely affect your work performance, which may lead to stress and even job burnout.

 

Coffee may increase your willpower

The positive: Although we may not realize it, our willpower decreases throughout the day as we make decisions. Coffee can strengthen your willpower and self-control, especially when you are exhausted or fatigued. If you have big decisions to make at work, don’t make them tired. Drink a cup of coffee first to fortify you to help make the right decisions.

The negative: Working in the world of business means you need a strong mentality to deal with the pressures and stressors you’re faced with each day. To make up for the frazzled state of mind and constant fatigue due to long work hours, many workers will overdo it on coffee, which of course leads to the aforementioned issues like anxiety, as well as others such as heart palpitations or an upset stomach. Too much coffee (especially in a stressed, drained state) causes elevated blood pressure and adrenaline levels. This means a very hard crash when the caffeine wears off. Using coffee to deal with high-stress situations on a regular basis can even lead to long-term anxiety disorder.

It may help you learn faster

The positive: Many entrepreneurs and business employees alike must stay ahead of current trends or learn new skills, which means consuming massive amounts of content such as books, articles, blogs, magazines, webinars, or podcasts.

All of this study requires focus, which lessens throughout the day as we become more mentally and physically fatigued. Studies have shown that 200 milligrams of caffeine can help you identify and learn words and phrases faster than without coffee. Coffee also helps you retain new information if you drink coffee immediately after learning it.

The negative: too much coffee during study time will have the opposite effect, leading to the dreaded crash, which impairs mental clarity and problem-solving skills. Keep your coffee consumption to one or two cups for maximum benefit.

The takeaway

Coffee definitely has some positive effects when it comes to work productivity. It improves mental clarity, keeps you alert, and helps you retain new information. However, too much coffee (which varies from person to person) can lead to adverse effects like anxiety, upset stomach, poor sleep habits, and fatigue, to name a few. Keep your coffee consumption to one or two cups a day to stay healthy, alert, and focused on the job.

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