The key to good teamwork is a big cup of coffee, study finds

Drinking coffee during a meeting may improve teamwork.
Drinking coffee during a meeting may improve teamwork.

There have been many theories about what makes a good team. We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in team” or “Too many chefs spoil the broth”. But beyond being catchy sayings to somewhat inspire reluctant people, no one has been able to tell us what the magic combination is.

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But new research may have found the most unusual team builder – and it’s not office sport battles or a good leader (okay, it might be). It’s that dark bitter brew that makes meetings a whole lot sweeter; yes, it’s coffee.

Less drifting, more talking

Researchers from the Ohio State University found that when people drank caffeinated coffee before a meeting they not only gave a more positive review of their group’s performance but also of their own work.

And if getting people to talk seems to be an issue, there’s hope. Another study found that when people drank the caffeinated cup, they spoke more in a group. But don’t think having the coffee without the caffeine will help. They also stuck to the topic more than those who had decaf coffee.

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And when they were talking about controversial topics that could likely cause friction, people who drank caffeinated coffee were more likely to still want to work in their group again than those who drank decaf. “Coffee didn’t seem to make group discussions too uncomfortable and disagreeable,” said Amit Singh, co-author of the study. “Even though they are talking more, agreeing and disagreeing, they still want to work with them again.”

Less yawning, more talking

So what about the coffee makes people work better in a group? “We found that increased alertness was what led to the positive results for team performance,” said Singh. “Not surprisingly, people who drank caffeinated coffee tended to be more alert.”

And what time you drink the coffee is important, too. When people drank coffee before the meeting they rated their group and their own performance more positively than those who drank coffee after the meeting.

Interestingly, it might not actually be about the coffee, but about how alert they felt. All participants were asked to rate how alert they felt. The caffeinated coffee drinkers rated themselves as more alert than the others. And those who rated themselves as more alert were more likely to give the more positive reviews of themselves and their group.

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“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,” said Singh.

Less thinking, more drinking

So what can you do to be a better teammate apart from offering to buy everyone a round of coffees from the café around the corner? Well, it’s simple. Drink more coffee or do something that makes you alert. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can take a walk before a meeting or have a conversation with a co-worker; it will make you more alert.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock 

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