Storm Brewing as Firms Slash Free Tea and Coffee for Staff

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Brits are famed for their love of a good brew and yet just 57% of British workers get to enjoy a free cup of tea or coffee at work, according to new research from uSwitchforbusiness.com. In fact, a quarter of workers (25%) have seen companies cut back on refreshments over the last year – leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for many.

uSwitchforbusiness.com

Cutting out the free cuppas may add to the bottom line, but there may be a far greater price to be paid in staff morale.

Brits are famed for their love of a good brew and yet just 57% of British workers get to enjoy a free cup of tea or coffee at work(1), according to new research from uSwitchforbusiness.com. In fact, a quarter of workers (25%) have seen companies cut back on refreshments over the last year(2) – leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for many:

  • Less than a third of British employees (32%) think that the company they work for is generous to staff(3) with four in ten (43%) describing staff perks as poor(4)
  • Two in five workers (38%) expect an employer to at least provide tea and coffee – just one in ten (13%) don’t see why companies should be expected to pay for them(5)
  • One in ten (10%) say that cutbacks on refreshments have changed the atmosphere for the worse at work while 19% say it has left workers feeling jittery about the future(6)
  • 32% say that small perks like free tea and coffee boost morale – just 6% of workers don’t value such perks(7).

While cutting costs has been a necessity for British companies over the last year, many are at risk of alienating hard working staff by ditching small perks such as free tea and coffee, according to new research from uSwitchforbusiness.com, the dedicated SME price comparison and switching service. With many businesses forced to cut hours, scrap bonuses and not give staff an annual pay rise, scrimping on refreshments may seem a small step, but it’s a step too far for some staff.

Despite tea being the nation’s favourite drink, just 57% of workers get to enjoy a free cuppa at work(1). Over a third (35%) of workers don’t get any free refreshments at all from their employer(1) and it looks like more companies intend to follow suit. A quarter of workers (25%) say that the company they work for has taken steps over the last year to cut the cost of refreshments(2), with many workers now expected to provide their own, pay for what they use or at least contribute towards the cost.

Bosses may think it is a reasonable step to take, but the potential backlash from employees could prove to be more than a storm in a tea cup. Almost four in ten workers (38%) expect their employer to provide free tea and coffee at the very least – just one in ten (13%) don’t see why companies should be expected to foot the bill(5). A further quarter (25%) don’t care about free drinks just so long as they are paid well(5) – difficult with many companies imposing a wage freeze.

The perk may seem small, but feelings can run high. One in ten workers (10%) report that cutbacks to refreshments have changed the atmosphere at work for the worse, while 19% say that they have made staff worry about the future and what else could be cut(6). And people are quick to judge - less than a third (32%) think that the company they work for is generous to staff(3) with four in ten (43%) condemning the perks they receive as poor(4).

As businesses look to shave costs, it’s worth considering the value that employees place on small perks, which can far out strip the monetary cost of providing them. Nearly a third (32%) say that little extras such as free tea and coffee boost morale, while 16% recognise it as a generous gesture from company bosses(7). In these cash strapped times over a quarter (28%) appreciate the money it saves them(7). Just 6% of workers say that they don’t value company perks(7).

If that’s not enough to convince company bosses not to raid the tea fund, they may want to consider this. Three in ten workers (30%) say that the quality of perks on offer influences their choice of employer(8). Over one in ten (13%) use it as a gauge for what the company is like – if the company is mean about tea and coffee, what else are they mean about(5)?

Jake Ridge, small business expert at uSwitchforbusiness.com, says: “Given the economic climate it makes sense to cut costs. However, it’s also vital that companies send out the right message to loyal staff. Perks like free tea and coffee do add up, but the cost is minimal when compared with the value that staff place on them. Cutting out the free cuppas may add to the bottom line, but there may be a far greater price to be paid in staff morale.

“When it comes to cutting costs businesses need to choose the right battles. Moving to a cheaper energy supplier and reducing the amount of energy you use is a quick and easy win which won’t impact on staff morale. Business energy contracts come up for regular renewal, but only a third (33%) of small businesses proactively check the market before signing their next contract and three in ten (30%) simply allow their existing contract to rollover(9), often paying over the odds for their energy as a result. It’s not difficult – by shopping around for a better deal businesses can save up to 70% on their energy bills(10) and can then afford to leave the tea fund alone.”

For more information visit http://www.uSwitchforbusiness.com or call 0800 093 06 07

Notes to editors:
Research carried out with the uSwitch.com Consumer opinion Panel online in December 2009, among 1,383 British adults employed by businesses or companies only – public sector employees were excluded.
1.    In response to: ‘Which of the following refreshments does your employer provide free of charge for staff?’
2.    In response to: ‘Has your employer taken any steps in the last year to cut the cost of refreshments?’
3.    In response to: ‘Thinking about the company you work for, how would you describe them as an employer?’
4.    In response to: ‘Overall, how would you describe the perks (free or subsidized) that your company offers (including refreshments, gym membership, car parking, staff discounts etc)?
5.    In response to: ‘Thinking about refreshments at work, which of the following do you agree with most?’
6.    Asked of those who had seen cutbacks on refreshments over the last year: ‘What impact has this had overall on staff?’
7.    In response to: ‘What is it that you value most about company perks, if you receive them?’
8.    In response to: ‘Does the quality of perks on offer influence your choice of employer?’
9.    According to Ofgem’s Energy Supply Probe – Initial Report (page 129 and 130) issued 6th October, 2008. 11% of SMEs are on rollover/evergreen contracts, while 19% don’t know. Because these did not take any other action to agree their contract, we have assumed that they simply allowed their existing contract to rollover. 11% + 19% = 30%.
10.    If a customer allows their contract to rollover, their rates can go up by up to 100%. Compared to the inflated renewal quote, customers who switch can make a 70% saving, as stated on our partner broker’s website - makeitcheaper.com.

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Jo Ganly

Linda Winder
Lansons Communications
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