A company’s break room can be the social headquarters of the building; however, often times, these types of spaces are underutilized as a result of poor design and building choices. Break rooms are so named because their purpose is to provide employees with a haven to relax and recharge, or to “break” away from the individual work stations and their distractions for collaborative projects. Natural light and soothing paint tones; comfortable seating options; a fully stocked kitchen; and entertainment areas can improve employees’ productivity and overall workplace experience.
Color scheme is often overlooked in break room settings. Differentiation between the break room and the rest of the office is key. Making employees feel like they are entering a new and energizing space will do more for employee satisfaction than one might think. As an example, the color green can bring in the color of nature and the calming effects with which it is associated. It is a color well-suited for a break room in more industrialized work environments. Green symbolizes renewal and vitality, according to color psychologist Judy Scott-Kemmis. Painting a break room green can animate an atmosphere and deliver refreshing stimulants that otherwise might be lacking. Additionally, natural light, as opposed to a heavy amount of fluorescent lighting, can increase morale and promote a positive spirit within the office environment. These are some easy ways to make a huge impact on the space in a relatively cost-efficient way.
Kitchens: The Secret Ingredient
Additionally, the kitchen area is arguably one of the most important sections in a break room. Companies should ensure they take into consideration the functionality of the space, including the right appliances to accommodate the number of employees using them. In a larger office with many employees, one might consider having multiple refrigerators and microwaves, as these are the most commonly used appliances in a break room kitchen. For example, Stantec’s Waterloo, Ontario regional office furnished its break room cafés with retro-inspired appliances from Elmira Stove Works. Throughout the expansive break room, they incorporated 5 microwaves, 4 refrigerators, and 2 dishwashers to accommodate the 330 employees who work in the office and utilize the space. Courtney Somers, marketing coordinator at Stantec, states that Elmira Stove Works’ refrigerators “met the need” for the functional aspect of the program. Somers also mentioned that because the appliances are certified Energy Star, they coincide with the sustainability practices of the company. Overall, Somers believes, “they injected a light-hearted and whimsical note [to the break room]—they are fun.”
Tony Dowling, vice-president, sales and marketing at Elmira Stove Works, says of the project, “Elmira appliances were the perfect fit for the design goals in the break room. They possess the light-hearted qualities that bring energy and playfulness to a space designed for just that.”
In addition to the kitchen space, the seating and entertainment areas provide the physical and mental relaxation that employees need to function at the highest capacity. No break room is complete without an area for employees to actually take a break. According to writer and marketing specialist, Jayson Demers, tables are important for the obvious reasons: they give people space to sit down and eat a meal during their lunch breaks. They also serve a more important purpose-they create a natural opportunity for workers to spread out materials for projects, and to engage with one another. Those conversations can help to solve existing problems facing those workers, or promote interpersonal connections and a greater sense of teamwork.
Televisions can also be a great asset for the team to enjoy national news and industry-specific channels. It offers a chance for employees to feel connected to what’s happening outside the office, while increasing casual conversation and team bonding.
Stantec’s break room at the Waterloo, Ontario regional office is a prime example of a company benefiting from break room psychology. Somers said the company wanted to “create a space that was ‘other,’ so there would be a different spatial and design experience from the office—a chance to be ‘away’ from work, while providing an option for breakfast and lunch in-house due to the lack of immediately available eating establishments within easy walking distance.”
Stantec envisioned the break room as a light and fresh café-type space with emphasis on bringing the outdoors into the space. Another key point was to ensure that employees had a variety of seating vignettes to meet and intermingle. Feedback from employees has been outstanding and all areas of the café have been widely utilized.
Eat, Break, Collaborate
Break rooms are an increasingly important part of society because they offer employees the chance to stand up from their desks, move away from the computer, and interact with colleagues in a personal and professional manner. Utilizing the techniques above allows for an open office environment in which employee fulfillment, satisfaction, and productivity are exponentially increased.
For more information about Elmira Stove Works, visit www.elmirastoveworks.com. To learn more about Stantec, visit www.stantec.com.