It’s our national drink, and we are incredibly particular about how it’s made (even if it’s only a bloody tea bag) and yet we are awkwardly lacking when it comes to any firm rules about who to include in a communal cuppa.
You’re in the office, you’re between tasks, a bit thirsty and looking for a 5 minute displacement activity. You want to reinforce your team-player credentials by offering to make tea for colleagues, but you don’t want to spend the next 15 minutes rinsing chipped promo mugs and remembering whose teabag was the rooibos. Call us the Debrett’s of the Middle Classes, but may we propose the following guidelines:
- Always offer to your nearest neighbour – you never know when you might need them to cover for you when you slip out for that clandestine job interview or spend the morning online trying to get tickets for the National.
- Extending the invitation to your island of desks (six max) also shows team spirit. But if you don’t get a reply after the second ask, let it go. You don’t want to sound too needy.
- Still no takers? You could widen the circle to avoid the discomfort of a solo brew, but pressures of future reciprocation mean this could quickly spiral into 15-cup rounds. Avoid.
- Where geographic groupings are less meaningful than social groupings, save interdepartmental beverage-based fraternisation for when you have a tough problem to crack over the same computer screen, or you need a favour (someone to design your wedding invitations, sharing illegally-downloaded US TV series)
- Meetings: be wary of offering to make other people a cup if the number of participants is greater than 2 or 3. You don’t want people to think you’re the workie. (Note if it’s the kind of meeting where a subservient has already set out a pot of something, on no account use the phrase ‘I’ll be mum.’ Not even as an ice-breaker.)
- And finally, homeworkers: resist tweeting ‘just putting the kettle on, anyone fancy a brew?’ That joke’s over now.