Many business owners overlook the importance of having a break room in their office, believing that it’s an unnecessary expense that doesn’t improve or otherwise benefit their business. While workers typically don’t perform job-related tasks in a break room, this space can still have a positive impact on their performance.
According to a study cited by Forbes, workers who take regular breaks are more productive and less stressed than their counterparts who rarely take breaks. Breaks allow workers to rest and reset themselves mentally so that they can return to their job with more energy and focus. As a business owner, you can take advantage of these benefits by creating a breakroom in your office. Below are 12 practical tips on how to design an office breakroom that workers are sure to appreciate.
#1) Include Trash Cans and Recycling Bins
Depending on the size of your break room – and the number of workers whom your business employs – include one or two trash cans as well as recycling bins for aluminum, plastic, and paper. Waste will naturally accumulate when workers use this area to prepare and eat food. You can keep this waste to a minimum, however, by setting up recycling bins for the materials previously mentioned alongside the trash can or cans.
A report published by The Green Team suggests that a single recycled aluminum can enough energy to power a computer for three hours. When you consider how many aluminum cans office workers go through in a typical day, it really adds up. Of course, that doesn’t account for plastic and paper packaging materials, both of which can be recycled as well.
#2) Set Up Dining Area
Create a dedicated dining area in your break room where workers can enjoy their snacks and meals. There are a few ways to do this, one of which is to add a single large conference table. Alternatively, you can set up several small dining tables in your break room.
Dining tables are usually preferred because they are designed to withstand spilled liquids, allowing you to get more use out of them. However, there are plenty of high-end conference tables that can last just as long if not longer than dining tables. Regardless, you need to set up a functional dining area in your office break room.
#3) Offer Complimentary Coffee
Statistics show that fewer than half of all U.S. businesses that operate out of an office offer complimentary coffee to their workers. Purchasing coffee for all your business’s workers costs money, but you should consider the positive impact it has workers’ performance.
More than 80% of Americans drink coffee daily. For office workers, this number of even higher. And drinking coffee has become a morning ritual for countless office workers, many of whom rely on the caffeinated beverage as a source of energy. If you don’t offer complimentary coffee, some workers won’t be able to enjoy this productivity-boosting beverage – not unless they bring their own coffee, at least.
Here are some tips on how to set a coffee station in your office break room:
- Choose a single-serve coffee maker, such as a Keurig.
- Place coffee maker next to the sink.
- If your coffee maker uses filters, keep filters nearby as well.
- Offer a variety of coffee flavors.
- Add condiments to a drawer or caddy, including sugar, sugar substitutes – Stevia, Truvia, Splenda, Sweet & Low, etc. – cream and half and half.
- Provide workers with disposable foam cups with lips and stirs.
- Print and laminate a sheet of instructions on how to use the coffee maker.
#4) Design With the Right Colors
The colors in which your office break room is designed will affect more than just the aesthetics of this space; it will affect the mood and atmosphere. Gray, for example, is a neutral color that creates a depressing mood, making it a poor choice for a break room. Orange, on the other hand, represents warmth and energy, making it ideal for this space.
You can still include other colors in your break room’s design, but try to focus on bright, bold colors to create an uplifting and energetic atmosphere that reflects positively on workers’ performance. Blue, red, yellow and light green are all excellent colors that can help you set the right mood in your office break room. To include more of these colors in your break room, consider painting the walls, decorating with throw pillows, adding container plants and displaying colorful artwork.
#5) Make It Private
The fundamental purpose of a break room is to provide workers with a quiet and peaceful area to retreat from the conventional hectic office environment. This is only possible, however, if the break room is private. Designing an open break room without walls or doors prevents workers from using this space to its full advantage. Workers can still eat and lounge in an open break room, but they won’t be able to make personal phone calls or converse amongst themselves.
For increased privacy, designate an enclosed room as the break room rather than simply using open space in the middle of your office. You can go one step further by installing sound-absorption panels on the walls of your break room. Also known as acoustic panels, they live up to their namesake by absorbing sound vibrations to create a quieter and more private space for workers.
#6) Provide Access to Electrical Outlets
Workers will probably want to recharge their smartphones and other devices while using your office break room. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. If your break room only has a few outlets, you may have to use those outlets to power appliances like the coffee maker. So, how can you provide workers with access to more electrical outlets in your break room?
First, check to make sure that none of the outlets in your break room are covered or obstructed. If you find an unused outlet tucked behind a dining table or counter, either reposition the furniture that’s blocking it or install an extension cord so that workers can access it. With that said, you shouldn’t run extension cables across the floor. Aside from looking tacky, it poses a safety risk to workers, who could trip and fall while trying to walk over an extension cord.
Second, use outlet splitters to turn a single outlet into multiple outlets. A splitter is a small electrical device that plugs into an outlet to provide additional outlets. Even if there are only two outlets in your office break room, you can turn them into four or six outlets using splitters. Choose plug-in outlet splitters rather than power strips and other corded splitters to eliminate the risk of trip-and-fall accidents.
#7) Add Entertainment
Don’t forget to add entertainment to your office room. Some of the most successful Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Apple, use this tactic to improve their workers’ morale and increase productivity. Entertainment allows workers to enjoy their break rather than simply sitting around while waiting to return to their job, so it naturally improves their morale.
Here are some entertainment ideas to consider for your office break room:
- Video games
- Interactive whiteboard
- Playing cards
- Foosball table
- Ping pong
- Board games
According to Inc.com, adding entertainment to a break room offers another benefit besides improved worker morale: stronger teamwork skills. Workers can get together to play team-based games, such as ping pong, that encourage them to work together. As workers build stronger teamwork skills in the break room, it may carry over to their work performance.
#8) Install a Refrigerator
No office break room without a refrigerator. Without this otherwise common kitchen appliance, workers won’t be able to keep their foods and beverage cool. While you can always invest in a full-sized refrigerator for your break room, this usually isn’t necessary. For most office break rooms, a compact refrigerator will suffice. Compact refrigerators are about half the size, so they don’t take up much space. Also, because of their smaller size, compact refrigerators usually cost less than their full-sized counterparts.
You can also stock your break room refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables. According to a survey conducted by the office supply store Staples, 57% of office workers prefer healthier foods such as these, whereas only 10% prefer empty-calorie foods like potato chips and candy bars.
#9) Include a Variety of Seating Options
Design your office break room with a variety of seating options to improve its functionality. You can use traditional dining chairs around the dining tables, for example. Available in metal, wood, composite wood, and plastic materials, dining chairs are perfect for an office break room. They feature a sturdy, upright design that allows workers to comfortably eat or drink while on break.
But not all workers use break rooms to eat, which is why it’s recommended that you can include other seating options in your office break room. In addition to dining chairs, design your break room with more-relaxing seating options like sofas, chaise lounges or even recliners.
#10) Don’t Cover the Windows
Avoid covering the windows of your office break room with curtains or blinds. You can use curtains or blinds, but you should leave them pulled back or open so that sunlight can shine in through the windows.
Allowing sunlight light to enter and illuminate your office break room is beneficial for several reasons. According to Psychology Today, office workers who are exposed to sunlight through a window are more productive than their counterparts who are forced to sit in windowless spaces all day. It’s believed that exposure to sunlight helps regulate office workers’ circadian rhythm, thereby improving their quality of sleep and, in turn, their productivity levels.
Sunlight also promotes a more energy-efficient break room by reducing or eliminating the need for artificial lighting. The biggest energy expense in modern offices is heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC), which accounts for more than half of all energy spent to power a typical office. But statistics show that about 16% of all energy used in offices involves lighting. By pulling back the curtains and opening the blinds in your break room, you won’t need as much artificial lighting, allowing you to save money on your business’s energy expenses.
#11) Create and Display Rules
Designing an office break room is only half the battle. Once set up, you must clean and maintain it. To make this process a little easier, create and display rules that workers must follow when using the break room.
Common rules for office break rooms include:
- No loud music.
- Label all personal food and beverages stored in the break room.
- Don’t take food or beverages that isn’t yours.
- Discard trash in the trash can and recyclables in the respective recycling bin.
- If you take the last cup of coffee, brew a new pot.
- Keep appliances clean.
- Don’t adjust the temperature or humidity settings of the refrigerator.
- Fully close refrigerator door after opening.
- Don’t store uncovered food in the refrigerator.
- Wash hands with soap and water before returning to work.
- Clean dishes after using them.
- Don’t heat (or eat) food with an overwhelming smell.
#12) Ask Workers for Input and Suggestions
Like other areas in your office, you may need to design your break room to improve its aesthetics or functionality. To identify ways that your break room can be improved, ask workers for input and suggestions. You can ask them in person, via email or a suggestions box. The latter is particularly useful because it allows workers to leave suggestions anonymously. Just place a box labeled “Break Room Suggestions” somewhere in your break room and include some slips of paper on which workers can write their suggestions.
After acquiring feedback from workers, identify the most requested features and consider them adding them to your office break room. If a significant number of workers requested a sofa, for instance, update your break room with a sofa. If they requested a foosball table, add a foosball table. By updating your break room with worker-requested features, you’ll create a more pleasing and enjoyable space in which workers can relax.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.