In 2011, Dunkin' Donuts teamed up with CareerBuilder to shed some light on U.S. coffee consumption in the workplace. After polling 4,700 American workers, they concluded that "some professionals need coffee more than others."
Photo Credit: Linh H. Nguyen via flickr
After the jump, you'll find an infographic that depicts the fifteen professions most dependent upon coffee, along with some interesting trends. Is your job on the list? If you're involved in scientific research, the answer is a jittery, highly caffeinated "yes."
Among those polled, scientists and lab techs were found to be the heaviest coffee drinkers in the country. Anyone who works, or has worked, in science will likely find this result unsurprising. Science, after all, is a 24-hour job. Experiments often run on timelines that are in every way at odds with the circadian rhythms of a normal human being — or any other creature, for that matter. Many scientists work under crushing pressure to publish results before competing labs or research groups. Limited funding requires researchers to put in countless hours writing grant proposals when they could be doing science. (It's not that they're writing grants instead of doing science, by the way. They're writing grants and doing science.)
In science, there is always an experiment to be performed, an unexpected result to troubleshoot, a poster to prepare, a conference to attend, newly published research to read, old research to brush up on, a minus 80 to de-ice, primers to borrow, a protocol to overhaul, a technician to train, a bench to disinfect, equipment to order, reagents to prepare, glassware to clean, and malfunctioning computers to turn off and on again. And, of course, there's never a time when a scientist can't be thinking about his or her research. Often, this thinking permeates through scientists' entire lives — not because they're required to, but because they're driven to. By curiosity, by pride, by the challenge of pushing knowledge forward. Scientists are workaholics. Caffeine-addiction likely fuels their work-addiction.
Scientists are so wedded to their work that they've actually done research on how much research they're doing. Back in August, a team of Chinese scientists released the results of a study that monitored, recorded and quantified scientists' work habits by looking at the time of day research papers were downloaded from the websites of scientific journals. Their conclusion: scientists work. A lot. Writing for Wired, applied mathematician Samuel Arbesman provides a tidy summary of the researchers' findings:
The upshot is that scientists work late at night and on weekends. We have a clear difficulty distinguishing different parts of our lives. But it's more interesting than that. Chinese and American scientists have somewhat different patterns of workaholism. American scientists work late at night, but still recognize that weekend as a time of rest (at least a little). Chinese scientists, on the other hand, don't work late at night, but work almost as hard on the weekends as on the weekdays. And Germany is somewhere in between.
This work often intrudes on the rest of scientists' lives in ways that are harmful to their health, relationships, and overall wellbeing. As the researchers explain in the conclusion to their paper:
Scientific achievements are accompanied by intense competition and pressure, which requires a large supply of time and efforts. On the other hand, the demanding assessment from the institution makes the working atmosphere even tenser. Scientists today are spending much more time working than initially intended. They are deprioritizing their hobbies, leisure activities, and regular exercises, which negatively influenced their mental and physical health. Meanwhile, engagement in scientific research after work directly leads to the ambiguity of the boundary between home and office. This investigation on scientists' timetable may in some ways call attention to the unwritten rule of working overtime in academia. As is generally agreed, research is not a sprint but a marathon. Balance in scientists' life is needed.
Emphasis added, to point out that when talking about scientists, the term "workaholic" is more than an illustrative use of exaggeration — it's an accurate description of behavioral addiction.
In no way is all of this to say that other professions do not beget similar (if not identical) negative side effects as science; you'll find workaholics in every field of employment on Earth. Nor is it to say that this list of coffee-dependent professions (the results of a small survey, conducted by Dunkin' Donuts, I remind you) corresponds to America's fifteen most demanding jobs. It is merely to say that the correlation between coffee consumption and scientists' tendency to overwork is striking, if not entirely surprising, and reflects a tendency within the scientific community to work oneself to the caffeine-addled bone.
So here's to you, scientists, for all that you do. And here's to coffee, for helping you do it. Just remember to take it easy once in a while, and that coffee can be a double-edged sword; Nobel Laureates may sing its praises, but your coffee addiction could be fueling an unhealthy addiction to your work.