A company breakroom

3 Best Practices for the Breakroom

Drop the pen. Put your phone on vibrate (or better yet, power down). Stick an "out to lunch" note on your door or monitor. It's time to take a break. We have perfected the art of the break. There...

Breakroom, Company Culture

Drop the pen. Put your phone on vibrate (or better yet, power down). Stick an "out to lunch" note on your door or monitor.

It's time to take a break.

We have perfected the art of the break. There are intermissions at the theater. Seventh inning stretches, pit stops and halftimes in sports. And then there are our favorite respites of all, vacation and spring break, those most blessed and anticipated annual rituals that allow us to exchange the ties and emails for flip-flops and the latest bestseller.

But many have forgotten the most important breaks – the ones that beckon each and every workday when stomachs growl or focus wanes.

A recent research report on employee benefits found that nine out of every 10 American companies today provide some sort of break area for employees. Yet, inexplicably, more than half of employees responding to a Staples Business Advantage survey said they feel like they can't leave their work desks for a break – because they either feel overworked or just plain guilty. And even when they do break, many have a hard time disconnecting from work-related tech like smartphones.

Science even proves you should take that break – University of Illinois researchers were able to demonstrate that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one's ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.

Even with this proof, though, the fact remains: American workers are suffering from an energy crisis. Long-term, the energy drain can have profound and lasting effects on employee morale and productivity. As Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, a workplace psychologist, tells CareerBuilder, "When workers skip a lunch break on a regular basis, they often don't realize that fatigue and burnout are creeping up on them until they wake up one day and ‘suddenly' feel less enthusiastic about their jobs or businesses."

Now, for the good news–the list of benefits from breaks is long, and growing longer as the demands and pressures of work today increase. Taking breaks restores balance, renews energy and focus. Net gain: Higher productivity and increased employee engagement. Put differently: A much happier employee.

Employees are clamoring for pleasant, well appointed and well stocked break rooms – and would use them if they existed. In fact, the fastest growing portion of the workforce– Millennials – are actually looking for "perks" like espresso machines when choosing places to work. In addition, the breakroom is a great place to embrace the office design trends of collaboration and team building.

In fact, one finalist in Staples' second annual Workplace of the Future 2.0 contest with Metropolis Magazine designed a futuristic workplace kitchen that promotes the kind of fruitful, stabilizing, collaborative and bonding conversations that can inspire creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Employees need an inviting respite, and here are some ideas to make that happen:

 1. Offer healthy, nutritious beverages and snacks.

As Staples has recently learned, nearly 70% of workers enjoy having snacks in the office, but only 43% of offices offer them. Make sure your office is in the other 57%.

If your employees are leaving work, driving for food or coffee, they're most likely coming back more stressed than they were when they left. And they've expended that most essential commodity: energy. A Staples Business Advantage survey found more than 85 million people each day leave the office routinely to get coffee. Respondents estimated each trip taking 20 to 40 minutes, equating to more than 2 billion minutes each day, or 10.6 billion hours per year, of lost productivity.

2. Create an ambiance that radiates calm.

Volumes have been written about the positive effects of daylight and sunlight on people's moods and general attitudes. Consider flooring and wall coverings in pleasant yet muted colors. Add nice touches like plants and capitalize on natural light when possible.

Create a natural flow inside your breakroom that allows for people to be alone in solitary islands or social in artfully arranged tables and chairs. Both kinds of spaces can and do promote energy restoration.

 3. Provide comfortable, ergonomic furniture

All the ambiance and good food are wasted if you don't provide a good place to sit down and enjoy them with. A Staples survey found, for example, that 45% of respondents would use the breakroom if it had furniture that encouraged relaxation, and yet 50% said their companies don't have a properly furnished break room.


Still looking for inspiration for your next break—or the next incarnation of your breakroom? Check out our other breakroom blogs or visit the Staples Breakroom Solutions Center for more information on how to stock your breakroom to ensure a happy, productive staff.