Coffee might help teams work together

What helps a team function well as a group? Is it bringing in doughnuts on a Monday, communicating effectively and calmly, or perhaps arranging office seating so everyone is facing each other? A paper published by Ohio State University in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that coffee might aid in our ability to work together.

The researchers have found that a groups performance ratings, and how they rate themselves, increase if they drink coffee before a given task. A second study investigating the influence on coffee in teams has suggested that people talk more, but stay on topic if they’re under the influence of the common stimulant.

Amit Singh, the co-author of the study and a doctoral student in marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, suggests that it may have this effect as it so profoundly impacts our alertness. “We found that increased alertness was what led to the positive results for team performance. Not surprisingly, people who drank caffeinated coffee tended to be more alert.”

The first study involved 72 coffee-drinking undergraduate students who were instructed to refrain from coffee before the experiment. Half of them were told the trial was about tasting coffee, and they had to drink a cup and rate it on the flavour. The other half of the group didn’t drink the coffee until the end of the experiment. Each group were asked to talk about a specific controversial topic and were asked to evaluate each other after the discussion. The results of the research showed that those who drank coffee before the meeting were more likely to rate everyone more positively than those who didn’t drink the coffee until after the chat. The second study was very similar, but instead, the groups drank decaf or caffeinated coffee.

The research suggests that increasing alertness will produce similar effects on teams. “We suspect that when people are more alert they see themselves and the other group members contributing more, and that gives them a more positive attitude,” Singh said.

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