A coffee break is a term for a brief ten to 20 minute break from the workday, during which it is common to enjoy a cup of coffee, or tea, or a small snack. It may also be referred to as a smoke break, tea break, or afternoon tea. It serves as a brief social gathering and rest period, and is frequently a requirement for employees at a number of business or industries.
It is believed that the coffee break began in the town of Stoughton, Washington, in the late 1800s. The town continues to celebrate with a yearly Stoughton Coffee Break Festival. The term and practice of the coffee break continued to increase in popularity through the 1950s, in large part because of an advertising campaign from the Pan-American Coffee Bureau encouraging people to give themselves coffee breaks. It is now a common part of the everyday workplace.
Coffee breaks generally take place a few hours after arriving at work, prior to a lunch break. They may also take place again in the afternoon. Employees are usually expected to leave their offices or work stations and go to a designated break room or cafeteria, even if they do not want anything to eat or drink. There, they may have a cup of coffee, tea, soda, or sometimes hot chocolate, along with snacks from a vending machine or pastries, among other options. Those who want to smoke will need to do so in a designated area. Occasionally, some businesses will hire a coffee cart to come around the office, selling drinks and snacks to employees at a designated time.
This brief break is designed to help refresh employees, and to give them a few minutes to relax and unwind before returning to work. It can help to make employees more productive and relieve stress. It also gives them a few minutes to chat with other employees, or to make brief phone calls, which they may not be allowed to do while they are working. In some cases, however, employees are encouraged not to discuss work issues while they are on break; they are supposed to stop working completely in order to fully enjoy their breaks.
Another type of coffee break is referred to as a coffee run. This may take place soon after employees arrive at work, when one employee might be designated to go to a nearby coffee shop and pick up hot beverages for everyone. This may or may not be sanctioned by the workplace.