The office: what’s for morning tea?

Ah, the office morning tea. Sausage rolls, coffee and tea, club sandwiches and, if you’re lucky, maybe a piece of raspberry slice or a quartered lamington.

By Asher Goldman

sausage rollsTime to sit back, pay cursory attention to speeches about the new / departing staff member, and mostly just sit and gossip with the workmates you talk to most anyway.

From lush spreads to more spartan offerings, the office morning tea can take a variety of forms. What is consistent, however, are the stereotypes we can find amongst our workmates.


The hoarder

Have you got a student working part-time? If so, they’ll usually take up this role. If not, it’ll go to whoever was most recently trying to survive on the pitiful amount provided by student loan living costs.

This person will stick around until the end, wrapping leftovers up in a small mountain of serviettes to stash in pockets you never knew existed.


The sweet tooth

No sausage rolls or egg sandwiches for this person. Ignoring the concept of courses, they’ll head straight for the sweetest item on the table, especially if it’s coated in chocolate, and pile their plate as high as it can go.


The cherry picker

This person isn’t a generalist – they’ll buck the trend of “one of everything” because they know precisely what they want. These people are usually experienced morning-tea goers; they’ve lived long enough to know the egg and ham mini-pies always disappoint, so they’ll bypass them in favour of a second sausage roll.


Morning teas have traditionally been reserved for occasions – usually to welcome a new staff member or to farewell a beloved workmate. Recent years, however, have seen the rise of morning teas for a cause. This is to be welcomed wholeheartedly – it is certainly much more fun to eat a sausage roll in the staffroom than to run a marathon or fast for 40 hours.

The king of the cause-based morning teas in New Zealand is the Oxfam Morning Tea (formerly known as the Oxfam Coffee Break). Held in Fair Trade Fortnight in the first half of May, the event raises money and awareness for fair trade.

Unions aren’t far behind. Last year, more than 11,000 people took part in Give Us a Break, the union-run activity to highlight the government’s changes to employment laws that provide for our breaks at work, amongst other things.

Of course, morning teas for a cause can also go horribly wrong. This year, a number of district health boards around the country held a morning tea event to celebrate Administrative Professionals' Day in April. DHB admin and clerical staff are among the lowest paid workers in hospitals.

This year, we heard a story of an awful Administrative Professional’s Day screw-up – one DHB held a morning tea to recognise the hard work of their admin/clerical staff but didn’t cater for enough people. If all the admin/clerical staff had shown up (let alone any other hospital staff), there wouldn’t have been enough to go around.

This didn’t matter in the end though, because senior management who’d organised the event didn’t make it clear to middle management and many supervisors refused to let their admin/clerical staff attend. Woops.

Generally, though, morning teas don’t go wrong. They’re a simple, and relatively inexpensive, way for management to show staff that they’re valued as people, not just as productivity gains. Long live the morning tea!


This article is from the June 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.