Creating the Ultimate Break Room – A place to Relax and get inspired

by Tanisha Dunkley, Contributing Writer

While a company’s benefits package may be enough to lure job candidates, keeping employees happy and productive may have less to do with compensation and more to do with where they can take their coffee breaks.

Modern workplaces are realizing that it’s not enough to simply construct a room with four walls for their staff to eat lunch, but rather they need to invest some money, time and effort to set-up a space where their employees can relax, refuel and socialize. So, what are some essential elements and equipment that can help businesses trans- form their humdrum lunchrooms into progressive and uplifting spaces worthy of attracting and keeping the best and brightest? You’ll be happy to know that the following recommendations require minimal investment for an almost immediate positive shift in employee satisfaction and productivity.

Appliances & Equipment –A good coffee break demands good coffee and that’s precisely why a well-functioning coffee machine is at the top of the list of must-have break room equipment. Whether it’s from a single-serve Keurig machine or a coffee pot, a steady flow of this aromatic brain juice will provide employees with a satisfying energy boost and mental power surge throughout the workday.

Doug McCorkell, Senior Category Manager for Staples On-line Canada, says the size of a break room is not as important as making sure the space is clean, organized and promotes an area where employees can go and feel comfortable. “The way a break room is set-up should help to foster a team environment and should have all the necessary accessories to allow employees to get what the want and need in an efficient manner,” McCorkell says, adding that “it can be as simple as a stand for a coffee machine if there is not much room, all the way up to a number of tables and chairs.”

In addition to a coffee maker, McCorkell says the break room should have a place to store supplies such as coffee accessories including cups, stirrers, sugar, milk, cream and cutlery. Depending on the size of the busi- ness, other necessary equipment may include a microwave, toaster oven, refrigerator, a ket- tle to boil water for teas and soups, as well as a water cooler to keep employees refreshed and hydrated.

Healthy Food Selections –Whether your company offers an on-site cafeteria or a basket of assorted goodies, the selection of food should include healthy options such as regularly replenished fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, nuts, yogurts and whole grain bagels. Making such healthy food options available to employees can be a strong reinforcement of a company’s health and wellness policy and can go a long way to ensure the well-being of the company’s workforce.

Tables and Seating –An effective break room will need an area for employees to sit down, take time to unwind and eat meals during their lunch breaks. Having spacious, sturdy and easy-to-clean tables and chairs will enable staff members to sit with each other and have conversations that can help build interpersonal relationships and foster team building. “Durability and comfort are key factors when it comes to the type of seating a company chooses to use in its break room,” says Paul Cole, Operations Manager at Beatties.

“The best seating solutions are those that are covered with sustainable and cleanable materials such as vinyl or leather.”Cole says although there are many stylish and practical options for companies to choose from when it comes to furnishing their employee lounge area, particular types of seating that should be avoided are those that are covered with fabric or cotton, which tends to absorb moisture and stains. “Businesses may be tempted to go with fabric covered seats because of the appearance but although it may look nice in the beginning, it won’t last in the long-term.”

McCorkell agrees that offices should use proper break room furnishings rather than cut corners by using regular office furniture.“Things like regular office chairs, desks and filing cabinets should not be used in a break room. Some companies may use left-over or old furniture for this purpose as well, but having a proper place for employees to sit, talk and have lunch is important because it encourages people to get away from their desks for a while and socialize,” says McCorkell. “The set-up in the break room should foster an inclusive environment so in many instances, round tables, bar style seating and even couches are used. As well, from a hygiene standpoint, proper break room furniture is easier to keep clean and maintain.”

Both Cole and McCorkell agree that companies today need to be aware that how they choose to design their break rooms is a direct indicator of how much they value and respect their employees.“People want to feel valued in the work- place and if a business has the budget, then they should spend a little money to show their staff how much they are appreciated,” Cole notes.

Television & Games –If a company really wants to make their break room the go-to place for employees looking to unwind and decompress, then a surefire way to accomplish this is by including entertainment equipment or materials in the form of a television, a foosball or billiard table, board games, newspapers and magazines. Even something as simple as a book of puzzles or a deck of cards may be enough to offer a nice distraction from a busy workday!

When it comes to helping employees relax, the other thing that can be considered is leveraging outdoor space. Many businesses have access to an outdoor space for barbecues and the like, and that can be a great addition to the break room experience in the warmer seasons.

Getting Started On Your Break room!

For those businesses not sure where to begin when planning the set-up of their break room, office furniture companies such as Staples and Beatties can provide furniture specialists who are experts in room and space planning. They can advise on everything from wall colour to proper furniture based on company size, type of business and available space.

In terms of the cost to plan and set-up a break room area, it depends on the size of the business and existing infrastructure. If it is a simple two or four employee business, it may cost a couple of hundred dollars to set up a coffee station. If it is a business that employs hundreds of employees, the investment may be considerably higher.

“It can be $5 to $10K per break room station with things like fridges, plumbing, sinks and other fixtures that are required. Costs can also be associated with ensuring building codes are met, pest control and proper electrical outlets,“ adds McCorkell. While there are varying costs to setting up a break room, the result of the investment is the same across the board! Studies have shown that a pleasant workplace, which includes the break room, can positively impact employee productivity and retention rates.

An effective break room can create an environment for employees to rejuvenate, socialize and network while also providing the business with a welcoming and neutral space to promote (via postings, messages and newsletters) and celebrate company and employee successes and happenings.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 Issue of Office Today Magazine