Johanna Rothman, who I don't read enough, gives about the best explanation of the importance of coffee stations (water coolers, kitchens, ...) in the workplace. Coffee (and Tea) are Cheap:
I'm in lovely Perth, Australia this weekend, staying with some friends of mine. The husband was explaining how he makes sure his department buys coffee, tea, milk, sugar for everyone in the department. "It costs us about $2000 to supply the department for a year. In return, people congregate around the coffee, discussing work. They feel as if the department cares for them as people." Contrast that with a friend of mine whose company (in the US) who doesn't supply coffee. "I make coffee, paying out of my own pocket. People used to come in when I was in a meeting, and sneak coffee from my supply. I finally had to go to a single-serving coffee maker."
Read the rest. Go ahead, I'll wait.
When businesses get into money-crunch mode, it is so easy to look on these kinds of amenities as costs because their value is difficult to articulate in terms that budget-minded managers can hear. But as I learn over and over again in my own practice, it is critical to take time out on a regular basis. In the workplace, this translates into providing the time and space for people to sit around and chat about whatever they might discuss. The individuals need time, and the groups need the space to form into cohesive units that can perform on projects.
Coffee disclosure: I am a coffee snob. At least I don't like industrial-strength coffee. My last several years at Pharmacia / Pfizer found me with a coffee pot at my desk, where we brewed good coffee for a group of two or three of us. We shared the cost of the coffee, and it was always a nice break when one of my coffee buddies would stop by.