Workplace Coffee Consumption in 2023 – A Generational Shift?.

Every workplace has a slightly different mix of coffee drinkers, from the caffeine hooked to the never-touch-it crowd, but with the changing demographic landscape of the UK’s workforce, are we about to see a generational shift in employee coffee drinking habits?

In this article we’ll be digging under the surface of workplace behaviour and seeing if there really is such a thing as a generational shift in the coffee drinking habits of workers in the UK. Some of the findings may surprise you!

The Demographics of the UK Workforce

Recent data from Statista tells us that the UK’s working population (those between the ages of 16 and 64, and capable of work) now stands at more than 32 million. Within this working population, roughly 30% of UK workers are above the age of 50 (CIPD), having rapidly risen since 1992 where the percentage of over 50’s in the workforce was at around 20%.

This ageing of the population has not come as a surprise to most people in the UK, with birth rates dropping decade on decade, and less people entering the workforce proportionately, as a result. To support the growth of over 50s in the workforce who will eventually retire and need replacing, the UK’s workforce needs to see growth in the number of 16-24 year olds entering the labour market. In reality, the numbers of workers entering the workforce has remained relatively steady for the last 25 years, putting pressure on the growing labour requirements of businesses across the country.

Employers are all too aware of the changing demographics of their incoming workers, whether it’s salary and package demands from a more finite talent pool, or greater soft perks and high quality working environment for them to experience. It also places great emphasis on the need for businesses to retain their experienced staff as replacing them is likely to get harder and harder over time.

Coffee Preferences of Different Working Generations

In YouGov’s poll titled “Understanding coffee drinking among Gen Z“,  respondents were asked if there was such a thing as ‘too much coffee’, which returned broadly similar results across the generational divides. Gen Z were the highest group to say that they felt there was such a thing as too much coffee, with 60% of this generation saying they felt there was a limit to how much they could consume.

This may appear significant, but with the second highest group sharing this opinion being in the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945), it could be argued that this is just a level of extremes for those who are both at the beginning and end of their careers. Could it be that regardless of generation, in a worker’s mid-career they’re likely to have a consistent level of coffee consumption, habitually?

Likewise, the number of respondents that said they felt that there was no such thing as too much coffee was stable across the generational groups, with people seemingly sitting on one side of the argument or the other for a large proportion of their working lives, and being unlikely to change their view.

Does coffee consumption increase with age, or are Gen Z just less engaged?

In the same YouGov survey, respondents were asked to detail how regularly they drank coffee, both at home and at work, and the results were a lot more varied. Whereas the view on what is too much coffee was consistent across the generations, this doesn’t tie up fully with the reality of how many cups are being consumed by each generation! Despite believing there is a ‘hard stop’ with caffeine consumption, there’s clearly some variance in quite where that hard stop is.

The proportion of Gen Z and Millennials drinking multiple cups of coffee per day is significantly lower than their older counterparts – only 10% of Gen Z workers and 26% of Millennials said they did so.

Compare this with Gen X, the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, where around 50% of their workforce consume multiple cups a day.

Again, there are more factors to this including natural energy levels for older workers potentially being lower, as well as potentially having a higher reliance on caffeine later on in working life, but on the surface it does look as though Gen Z have somewhat turned their back on heavy coffee consumption.

Fear not, coffee will remain

If the statistics are to be believed, Gen Z workers just don’t have that same affinity to coffee as their older counterparts. As we’ve explained along the way, though, this isn’t as simple as saying ‘Gen Z don’t drink coffee’. The reality is, they are at a different stage in their careers, with different tastes and drinking preferences, and in many cases now are working remotely or in hybrid roles, meaning that if there’s no coffee machine at home, they’re likely to only consume when they’re in the office.

The relevance of the UK’s workforce demographics has on the importance of these statistics cannot be understated – with the squeeze on new workers continuing, and an ongoing reliance on the ageing workforce to keep Britain’s economy firing on all cylinders, it’s possible that organisations might need more coffee in their office kitchen, not less. Let’s not overlook one key detail, too – younger workers may not be drinking multiple cups of coffee a day, but they are drinking coffee nonetheless. In a recent Mintel report, it was found that 72% of Millennials drink a cup of coffee a day.

Not only is the UK Government working hard to encourage over 50s back into the workplace to share their skills, experience and plug any staffing gaps, but they’re also far more likely to want to be based in an office environment, as they have been for most of their working lives. 50% of these new office workers are likely to consume multiple cups of coffee a day – regardless of the Gen Z ‘slump’ in coffee consumption, the need for high quality office coffee machines will continue long into the future.

Futureproofing your workplace coffee setup

Workplace coffee is going nowhere soon and it’s important that organisations invest in the most appropriate solutions for their changing workplace demographics, whether that’s more Baby Boomers or more Gen Zs coming into the talent pool.

Getting the right office coffee machine in place is something that Connect Vending know a thing or two about. We’ve been serving up innovative coffee solutions to businesses across the UK for more than 25 years, and our team of operators and engineers provide market leading support to our loyal clients.

To find out how changes to the demography of your workplace can be catered for with great coffee solutions, speak to our team of experts on 01865 341011, or contact us.

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