Publicity June 2013

Mars: More than a Cuppa

Sharing a hot drink with co-workers promotes interactions, engagement, productivity, morale

The modern office, scientists are discovering, can be a stifling and inhibiting space. Partitions cut us off from our colleagues, we are glued to our computer screens for hours on end, and our creative and innovative juices ebb away.

The same researchers have determined that some of the most efficient and dynamic workforces are those that are encouraged to get up from their desks, walk around, and have a chin wag with fellow workers over a mug of tea or coffee.

A 1999 technical report compiled by the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory concluded: “Short breaks accompanied by access to hot drinks during the work day help improve productivity as employees approach tasks with less fatigue, make fewer mistakes, and complete tasks more quickly”.

A second report—a collaboration between Mars Drinks UK, the beverages division of Mars Incorporated, and McKinsey & Company—indicates that taking time out to share a hot drink with a colleague has numerous benefits.

Released in 2008, the study states: “Employees experienced more interactions with colleagues, higher levels of engagement and satisfaction, and improved productivity and morale when using our unique system”.

In 1911, Frank C Mars made the first Mars sweets in the kitchen of his home in Tacoma, Washington, and established the firm’s roots as a confectionery maker. Today, the firm is headquartered in McLean, Virginia.

The European base for the global firm was set up in Slough, South-east England, in 1932. A production facility in the town was the first in the world to produce the iconic Mars bar.

Several other famous products were devised in this corner of Berkshire, including Twix, Skittles and Opal Fruits.

Mars Drinks operates from its US headquarters in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and its UK headquarters in Basingstoke. The firm specialises in office drinks, which Japan Market Director Issei Tsuneki believes offer far more than just a mug of coffee.

“If there were one reason these drinks are becoming increasingly popular—and important—I would say it is because they ‘enable office communication’”, Tsuneki said.

“A lot of companies are now creating refreshment rooms that function as a space where staff can communicate”, he said. “It is vitally important that they have great-tasting coffee and other drinks to attract them to that space on a regular basis”.

A report by the Houston-based International Facility Management Association identifies the “Five Cs” that go into the ideal collaborative space: a central location, connectivity such as WiFi access, comfort, CNN for news coverage, and coffee.

A Briton might disagree with the fourth C on the list, and seek to replace it with the BBC, but the rest make a lot of sense.

“We want to give many people, from different departments within an organisation, who would not normally have a chance to meet up to do exactly that”, he explained. “A company that wants to go forward needs its staff—its biggest asset—to be able to share information and brainstorm.

“And, if innovation based on those conversations emerges, then that has to be a good thing”, he added.

Mars Drinks, which in 1992 first introduced its office drinks solutions in Japan, has more than 100,000 customers around the world and provides hundreds of millions of drinks every year.

Each sleek and compact system is able to provide a range of beverages from AlterraTM Coffee Roasters, the Bright Tea Co.TM and Dove® (known for its hot chocolate drinks).

Coffee is sourced from independent farmers in countries such as Colombia, Sumatra, Costa Rica and Ethiopia, while extensive research has revealed that, to keep everyone happy, it requires four different combinations of roast and taste: light and smooth, medium and balanced, medium and bright, and dark and intense.

The teas available range from the traditional English breakfast and Earl Grey to green teas, herbal infusions and jasmine tea.

“A few years ago, everyone in Japan was talking about nomu-nication, or going drinking after work with the boss and everyone throwing ideas around”, he said.

“But things are very different now”, he said. “Because of the state of the economy, fewer people are going out for drinks after work. In addition, fewer people are smoking—another opportunity for employees to chat at work—and opportunities to develop a company are being missed.

“We have a solution, a central point where people will be able to drink, think, link and then make things happen”, he said. “And that has to be good”.