Taking breaks at work doesn’t just feel good. It’s actually a proven way to boost productivity, produce higher quality work, and improve attention spans. But taking a break comes with a few requirements. Below we’ve outlined our top tips for making the perfect workplace break room.
The first and most important requirement of a great break room is that it helps your team separate from work. It’s all well and good to say you or your team will sit at a desk and read a book, drink some tea, and zone out. But what if the phone rings, or a co-worker interrupts by coming over to the desk, or loud office chatter distracts? That’s where a break room can come in. A break room is a room that is designed to be a quick and easy escape from the workday stress. It’s a place to reset, rejuvenate, and gear up to tackle the day’s remaining work. A break room, much like your office, needs to be well thought out and designed so that it can achieve its maximum effect. Stock the right snacks
Snacks and Drinks
There’s plenty of break room snack options. But you don’t just want to stock any snacks. You want to stock snacks that will help boost people’s energy levels. Candy might taste good, but that insulin rush that comes later will more likely send people into snooze mode than work mode. Here’s our list of energy-boosting fuel
- Berries and fruit - plenty of sugar, but naturally occurring, and with fiber, so it digests slowly.
- Seeds and nuts - good fats and protein work well on the hiking trail, and they’ll work just as well in the office.
- Avocados - Similar to the seeds and nuts, the good fats help people feel full and provide the necessary energy.
- Yogurt - High protein, low fat, lots of yummy flavors
- Tea - Naturally occurring caffeine, and usually lower doses than those giant cups at starbucks, help even out energy levels without giving your team the jitters.
- Oatmeal - high in fiber, relatively easy to make in a microwave, and super cheap.
The break room should feel like an inviting and welcoming place. If you love stark and contemporary design, that’s great, but the break room isn’t the place for it. Try to stay away from stark colors and uncomfortable materials. Think of the furniture you see in a spa, a bed and breakfast, or even a country inn. Soft colors and materials. Natural aesthetics. This isn’t to say your break room needs to look like something out of The Waltons. Contemporary furnishings can look very relaxing, if you choose the right materials and colors. Likewise, for the walls, try soft, watery blues and greys, as these colors have been shown to slow heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Choose tables that can be moved into a large boardroom configuration, allowing everyone to gather together when they desire. Small tables on wheels also allow your team to separate themselves when they need a moment to sit alone, perhaps with a selection from your abundant tea list. You’ll need chairs for all of that sitting around, but when the room is full of people, you’ll want to maximize floor space and minimize seating. Choose chairs that stack so that you can reduce their footprint when not in use.
Create an Etiquette Guide
Although the break room is supposed to be a place to relax and unwind, that doesn’t mean it can be a giant free for all. Imagine the stress of walking into a room that is noisy, dirty, and smelly. This list below will help keep your break room a welcoming place for all.
Refill the Coffee
I don’t know about you, but I’m not human until I’ve had a cup of coffee in the morning. When I take a break at work, I love being able to pour myself a steaming cup of joe and zone out. But that’s kinda hard to do if the pot is empty. Institute a “pay it forward” policy at work by encouraging coworkers to make a new pot if they pour out the last cup.
Keep it Clean
A clean break room welcomes your entire team to come relax whenever they need. But a dirty one instantly requires cleaning before it can be used. Dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counter, some sort of weird goo on the table, and other messes can be quite off putting. Make sure to provide cleaning supplies so that your team can quickly and easily take care of their messes.
I’ve observed a few constants in my life; socks will disappear in the wash, extra tupperware lids will appear in my cabinets without warning, and office refrigerators are secretly being used as science experiment labs. Have you ever seen the things growing in there? The easiest way to keep the office refrigerator clean is to adopt a weekly cleaning schedule. Take a day and time, say Friday at 4:00 pm, and have your cleaner or office admin throw out anything that is not a condiment or community item. Although we’d like to think that everyone can be responsible for their own food, the reality is that office food is easy to forget about. Likewise, tying a marker to a string and then tying the string to the refrigerator also helps people mark their food with their name so that nobody else eats it.
I love curry and when I was in Thailand I ate it every day. Same for fish when I was in Vietnam. But in the office I avoid these foods out of respect for everyone else. I don’t know what causes fish to suddenly turn into the foulest smelling food when it enters an office, but it does! Get your team to agree on which foods are off limits so that nobody gets hit with a wall of eau du stink.
The break room is not a meeting room. It has a different purpose and should be designed differently from a meeting room. Therefore it should have as little technology as is possible. What it should have is something that gets your team moving and interacting so that they can forget about work for a while. Pool tables, ping pong, and foosball are all great ways to get their minds off of work. The refresh and recharge and help people find new energy, not to mention a good excuse to bond.