Hot Drink Etiquette In The Workplace

When it comes to office politics, there’s one thing that takes precedence above everything else: the hot drinks round.

Employees put the kettle on multiple times a day to brew their favourite drinks in workplaces all over the country, but it’s more than just a tea round. It’s a break from the desk, a chance to get social with other kitchen-dwelling co-workers for 2 minutes, and, increasingly, a coffee round too.

Some people think that a hot drinks round is the perfect opportunity to make colleagues a tea or coffee, safe in the knowledge that in an hour’s time they’ll return the favour. As we all know, however, others manage to skirt around the unwritten rules and take more than they give.

Tea and coffee cultures differ from office to office, so we’ve carried out a survey to determine the rules of engagement that surround hot drink rounds and discover just what keeps the nation’s caffeine habit ticking over.

Once you’ve read through our findings, hang our downloadable A4 poster in your office kitchen or break room, have everyone fill out their ideal brew, and in theory you’ll never receive a bad cuppa again. Unless someone’s sabotaging your hot drink on purpose, that is…

The Hot Drink Etiquette Survey

We surveyed 2000 UK workers, asking 10 questions about their hot drink habits in the workplace. Here’s what we found…

Brewing Up Bad Manners Infographic

Hot drinks etiquette is so important in some workplaces that over half of those surveyed consider it to be bad manners to make a drink without offering colleagues one too.

Age has something to do with how workers felt about it, as we found that 71% of people aged 18-24 thought it was impolite while only 43% of those aged 65+ saw the injustice.

We also uncovered a group of people who choose to stay out of the hot drink routine altogether, with just over one third of people saying they never offer at all.

Etiquette takeaway: Offer to make a hot drink for colleagues to avoid them thinking you’re rude

Whose round is it anyway infographic

Whilst you might feel like you’re always on your feet making brews for your colleagues, in reality only a quarter of people in the office make at least 1 hot drink a day for a colleague.

18-24 year olds make the most hot drink rounds per day, with over a third of this age range making 4+ rounds as they try to prove themselves in the office and/or medicate themselves with caffeine to make it past the post-lunch slump.

Blowing everyone out of the water with their hot drink generosity, 1% of caffeine-reliant workers make 7+ hot drinks rounds a day!

Etiquette takeaway: Reciprocate the generosity of young and eager hot drink makers

Love thy neighbour infographic

Opinion is divided when it comes to who you should offer a hot drink to in the workplace. 11% of people will offer the entire workplace a beverage, a quarter of people will only ask colleagues in their immediate working area, and 35% will make a beeline for their work best friends.

1% of people might have ulterior motives with their approach to making rounds, saying that they only offer their boss a drink. We wonder if it works…

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t feel pressured to ask everyone in the office, just the besties will do

Keep your cool infographic

When it comes to what drinks are fair game to order, 57% of people are more than happy to make instant coffee or a cup of tea as part of the round. A little more surprisingly, only 3% would make a herbal tea.

Also, unexpectedly, cold drinks are out of the equation, with only 7% of people happy to top up your water or get you another refreshing cool beverage.

We noticed a slight gender split in willingness to go the distance in the hot drink round, with nearly 1 in 4 women happy to make any hot drink for their colleagues, whilst only 1 in 5 men would be happy to do the same.

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t ask anyone to make you a herbal brew or cold drink – coffee and tea only

Under the radar infographic

Looking for reasons to stay out of the hot drink round game? If you’re too busy at work, 16% of people agree that you’re permitted to sneak away and make yourself a quick drink without anybody minding.

22% answered that, as long as you don’t expect any hot drinks from anyone else, you’re fine to stay out of the system.

Despite this, the majority of people asked (32%) said that you should never feel compelled to make a hot drink for any of your co-workers.

Etiquette takeaway: Don’t take without giving, stay out of the system altogether if you don’t want to be involved

Our Other Hot Drink Findings

You are what you drink

Despite our reputation as a country of tea-lovers, the scales have finally tipped in coffee’s favour with 46% of people saying it’s their favourite workplace hot drink.

This was followed by tea with 32%, and hot chocolate with 6%.

Great expectations

Great expectations infographic

How much is too much?

The majority of people (37%) have 3-4 hot drinks a day, which seems reasonable, but 3% are extra jittery with 7-8 hot drinks in a regular workday, and a wild 1% go for 9+. We can only wonder how they sleep at night.

What’s the cost?

Our survey found that an average of around 4 minutes 33 seconds a day per employee was spent making hot drink rounds for colleagues, or around 23 minutes and 5 seconds per week.

Expand this out to the whole full-time working population of the UK and you get a whopping total of 12,464,230 hours spent every single working week making hot drinks.

Making a sacrifice

From Azeera to Kenco, Tetley to Yorkshire; everyone’s got a favourite brand when it comes to hot drinks. We asked people what they would turn down to have their preferred tea or coffee in the office and got some surprising results.

9% of people said they’d give up additional holiday allowance and 9% would reject a <5% pay rise, just to have their favourite brand to hand.

Scottish independence

Scottish independence infographic

Scottish people were the most likely to stand alone out of the people we surveyed, with 63% thinking there’s nothing wrong with not offering colleagues a hot drink and showing that, if you want a drink in a Scottish office, you might be best making it yourself.

On the opposite end of the scale, 66% of people in Northern Ireland and 64% in East Anglia think it’s rude to go it solo, making them the most likely to offer a drink around.

Now that you know the expected hot drinks etiquette around the office, download and print out our free Drinks Round Cheat Sheet. Your workplace coffee and tea round will be a breeze with everyone’s preferred brew in one handy place. Drinks Round Cheat Sheet Download