Tea round at risk of extinction in the British workplace

Monday, 24 March 2014

The humble tea round is a tradition that is slowly becoming extinct in today’s fast-paced busy workplace with 2.5 million workers in Great Britain saying they don’t have the time to put the kettle on for their colleagues.

We've released research to coincide with our annual Great Brew Break event which shows that the demise of the communal cuppa comes despite Britons downing an average of five cups of tea or coffee a day at work, with 44% consuming five or more cups in a working day.

And the findings indicate that the demise of the tea round may stem from the top – 40% of workers claim their boss never makes them a cuppa.

A third (34%) of workers admit they would rather just make themselves a drink and get back to work and many are resorting to underhand tactics to do just that. Common excuses deployed to get out of the tea round include waiting until people aren’t around, offering when people have just made themselves a drink and making rubbish teas and coffees so they are not asked again.

The Great Brew Break is a chance to gather friends, family, neighbours and colleagues and raise funds to support lonely older people. We're calling on the nation’s bosses to lead the way in this crusade to save the tea round by pledging to make the tea for their colleagues for the Great Brew Break fundraiser.

And putting the kettle on could benefit them it seems. More than a third (37%) of workers say regular communication with colleagues is important in the workplace and 41% think taking short breaks during the working day is essential for concentration.

The Royal Voluntary Service Great Brew Break (28 April – 4 May) will see tea events held throughout the country to raise funds to help the charity deliver services to alleviate loneliness among older people. Nearly three-quarters of over 75s that live alone feel lonely.

"Time out for a cup of tea and quick chat is hugely important, especially in today’s ‘head down’ fast paced culture. It might be the time someone opens up about something that’s been bothering them or maybe you’ll get to hear about that great job that’s coming up. We all need to take a break to keep our minds focused and it’s so important that we maintain a connection with our colleagues. I’m supporting Great Brew Break to help raise vital funds for older people’s services and to help bring people back together."

Felicity Kendal, Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador

As a nation built on the tradition of a cup of tea and its enduring social warmth − Royal Voluntary Service volunteers serve thousands of cups of tea every week to those in need and its mobile tea vans were a common sight as far back as wartime Britain − the looming death of the tea round represents a significant shift in the culture.

"A cup of tea is so collectively comforting to people in Britain, that its power can never be underestimated. For older people that don’t see anyone from one day to the next a cup of tea and a chat means everything. My tea intake has increased considerably while writing my book and I will certainly be raising a mug to Great Brew Break in April. No matter who you are, a good brew break helps keep you going."

Stephen Fry, Great Brew Break supporter

"We know first-hand how important a cup of tea and a little bit of shared time can be to a person’s life, whether that’s a happy workplace or cheering up on older person who might not have seen anyone else all week. We are all busy, but taking that small amount of time to talk and share a cup of tea is beneficial to everyone’s day. I want to encourage the nation’s bosses to do their bit to save the humble tea break by pledging to make tea for their colleagues and raise funds for Great Brew Break."

David McCullough, Royal Voluntary Service chief executive

Great Brew Break events will take place from 28 April to 4 May, with bosses making the tea, vintage tea parties and simple tea breaks. We will host an online roll call of all bosses who make the tea for their colleagues and as part of the campaign, and charity is writing directly FTSE 100 bosses, appealing to them to put the kettle on to raise funds.

To host your own Great Brew Break visit royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/brewbreak for everything you'll need to get for the perfect Brew Break. You can also call us on 0845 608 0122.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteering charities in Britain powered by more than 40,000 volunteers who regularly provide practical help to over 100,000 older people in their homes, communities, hospitals and during emergencies. If you are over the age of 14, we have volunteering opportunities in communities, in hospitals and in emergency situations.

Find out how you can become a volunteer, call 0845 608 0122 or search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

If you are a member of the press and have a media enquiry please contact the Media Team. For all other enquiries, contact us.

About the research

  • ICM interviewed a random sample of 2032 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 5 -7 March 2014 on behalf of Royal Voluntary Service. The questions were only asked from respondents who work full or part time – 1214 respondents including 55 booster interviews in Wales and 25 in Scotland. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. All questions that asked about the ‘tea round’ refer to both tea and coffee and this was made clear in the research questions. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at icmresearch.com

Back to list

Send a virtual cup of tea

If you can't make it to a Great Brew Break, then why not send a 'cup of tea' online.

Make a donation 

Make a donation

£3 can buy a birthday card for an older person

£10 can go towards the cost of a weekly lunch club

£100 will recruit, train and support a new volunteer

Donate now  

Keep in touch

Keep up to date by eNewsletter about our work and the different ways that you can get involved and support us to do more.

Sign up