How to Create a Breakroom that Reflects Your Company Culture

By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

No matter the type of business, every enterprise functions better with a great breakroom. Data from a 2014 Staples survey bear this out:

  • 86 percent of employees believe breaks make them more productive
  • 59 percent indicated that regular breaks increase work satisfaction
  • 43 percent said breaks improve personal happiness

“The main point to a breakroom is team unity and the ideas, productivity and output that flow from that,” says James Pillow, president of Fan Castle, a college apparel business in Opelika, AL. A great breakroom does all that and reinforces company culture:

1.    Cool & creative. Sleek furnishings, hip wall art and an eclectic array of snacks are the keys for companies trading on creativity. At Drive Local, a digital ad agency in Melville, NY, snacks range from the required coffee options (via a multi-format coffee machine) to seaweed chips and fresh fruit. “We try to limit the amount of junk food,” says Brittany Flynn, client success specialist for the firm. “This helps employees feel their best throughout the day and prevents the dreaded food coma from dulling productivity.” Install an inspiration wall that’s part whiteboard or chalkboard (for doodling) and part bulletin board (for notes and inspiring ideas) to capture creativity as it happens.

Bonus idea: In the Staples survey, 45 percent of employees would use the breakroom more if it had furniture to encourage relaxation. At Drive Local, employees enjoy massaging chairs to reduce stress and fuel creativity during quick breaks, or while working on laptop or tablet.

2.    Professional & productive. If you’re all about productivity and workflow, your breakroom should be fast and efficient, like a convenience store. Stock everything employees need from a first aid kit to snacks and beverages. The Staples survey found that 57 percent of employees prefer healthier options like granola and protein bars while 10 percent want more chips, cookies and candy. “Ask your employees what they want to see available—getting their feedback will help you meet their needs,” Flynn says. Another tip: Bright lighting and motivational wall art reinforce efficiency.

Bonus idea: Duplicate snack and beverage stations on opposite walls with tall café tables in the middle reduces congestion and promotes a grab-and-go mentality.

3.  Familial & friendly. Homey and welcoming breakrooms suit businesses that emphasize family. Stock the usual snack and drink options and choose comfortable chairs and long tables. “Having a space that is conducive for our employees to come, chat, eat, play and socialize allows our team to feel more like friends than co-workers,” explains Andrea Webber, PR assistant for Ontraport, a small-business sales and marketing support company in Santa Barbara, CA. The team enjoys breakfast, lunch and snacks in the breakroom, which also serves as the venue for baby showers and other company social events. “Having that camaraderie significantly helps morale and productivity.” Yet 50 percent of the respondents in the Staples survey said their breakrooms weren’t properly furnished.

Bonus idea: Floor and table lamps create a homey feel. “Natural light has an amazing effect on comfort,” Webber says. “If the space doesn’t have a lot of windows, it’s worth considering light bulbs that simulate natural light instead of harsh florescent lighting.”

4.    Collaborative & innovative. Foster teamwork and idea generation between project teams with lots of food and beverage options, and ample space for group brainstorming. Coffee and energy drinks are popular, as are adult options for after-hours conferencing. (According to the Staples findings, 66 percent of people spend more than 8 hours a day at work.) Flexible furnishings serve impromptu meetings well: small tables that push together and chairs and sofas that re-arrange. Games free up the mind and lower stress. “Encouraging our team to take little breaks for a game of pool or chat with other teammates helps spur creativity and productivity,” Webber notes.

Bonus idea: A wall dedicated to sticky-notes or whiteboard sessions is a great way to spur brainstorming. Add a ceiling-mount document camera to capture the work.

5.    Fun & games. Game-themed breakrooms are perfect for company cultures with a work hard-play hard philosophy. In the Staples survey, 37 percent of employees said breaks enhance their health, and at Fan Castle, employees play Ping-Pong, air hockey, foosball and pool to stimulate blood flow and burn a few calories; board games are also on hand. “The reason all of this is important is people bond through activities,” Pillow says. “The rate at which people perform and the speed they go is directly related to trust. So if you have a team that can care for the company, think for itself, trust itself and others, and then course-correct, the sky is the limit!” Keep the game theme going with a popcorn machine and a kegerator for special occasions. Sports wall art and memorabilia complete the theme.

Bonus idea: A big-screen serves multiple functions: a meeting display for work and a sports-airing TV during special events or off-hours.

Use these ideas to inspire an upgrade to your current area or to design an entirely new breakroom experience that promotes your company culture.

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