While many companies can’t offer the nap pods, ping pong tables or gourmet chefs offered by Google, there are several inexpensive break room ideas you can use to improve employee morale and boost productivity.
According to experts, the goal behind a break room is not to regard it as a place where employees slack off, but a place where they can relax, recharge and interact with fellow employees.
Employee lockers and break rooms set the tone for how employees are treated
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Break Room Décor – while it is important (and required) that employment legal notices be posted, be sure to make your break room different than the rest of the office or workplace. Paint it a different color. Add plants. Include comfortable chairs. Hang pictures. This lets employees know this is a space that is removed from their work area. Create a sort of refuge where they can recharge and take their mind off work.
2. Encourage Mingling – many times during the busy work day, employees are isolated and don’t get the opportunity to meet with fellow employees. So provide large tables, benches or picnic tables where people can mingle and friendships could be formed.
A huge side benefit is that sometimes these inter-employee communications gives the staff an opportunity to discuss job-related issues and come up with solutions that benefit the employer. That’s a nice perk for the company.
3. Free Coffee – seems like a simple item, but this is at the top of the list for what many employees would like to see in their break room. Most companies do this. But if yours doesn’t, get on it. (Or if your coffee is sub-par and you see people aren’t drinking it, improve the quality). Coffee creates mental energy, better focus and boosts performance.
4. Healthy Snacks – Google has a full-time chef on the premises who cooks three meals a day. Google can do that because they are Google and worth a bazillion dollars. But a normal company can provide similar treats without breaking the budget by providing an array of healthy snacks. Even if a company can’t do this every day, experts say periodic treats are one way to make your workplace better than your competitors.
5. Employee Lockers – most businesses have plenty of places where they can make upgrades to the work environment. But think about employee lockers. This is one item that employees will interact with at least two times a day, when they start and finish work, and perhaps even more. Why not provide a set of clean, bright, sturdy employee lockers to let workers know they are appreciated and valued.
The freshest way to refresh is outside with benches and picnic tables
6. Outdoor Amenities – studies show that providing a way for people to go outdoors and connect with nature can have a huge impact on productivity. Homo sapiens, by their nature, are still wired to enjoy contact with the outdoors. We need fresh air and sunshine.
In the study titled, “Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work and Employee Stress and Health” researchers said “Environments with natural elements either restore stress-fatigued cognitive resources to enhance coping abilities or stimulate underutilized portions of the ‘old’ brain which balance the concentrated stimulation and relieve exhausted portions of the brain to reduce stress.”
In more simple terms, spending time outside helps employees to chill out.
Adding a few outdoor park benches or picnic tables to any outside work area is easy and inexpensive. Include reliable commercial outdoor umbrellas or position site furnishings under a shady tree. Make the place colorful by simply adding a few commercial outdoor planters filled with bright flowers.
Experts say just 10 minutes outside can actually boost our mental chemicals to make us happier and healthier.
Encourage people to take breaks outside in the fresh air. If an employer is worried about people abusing this privilege, place a clock outside so people are cognizant of the time. The payoff can be huge for any corporation.
If you do create a space outside, be sure to add commercial trash cans to keep the place clean. People generally don’t like to litter. But studies show, they are more likely to litter if trash cans are too far away or overflowing.
Same goes for discarded cigarettes. Cigarettes are the No. 1 source of litter, so be sure to add plenty of smokers posts and outdoor ashtrays. No one wants to see a place covered with any kind of trash.
7. Celebrations – Why not make employees feel special with periodic celebrations to break up the week? A break room or even outside break area can be seen as a special place to honor employees. Sometimes just a little bit of encouragement or acknowledgment can go a long way in creating and maintaining a happy workplace. By conducting these events in the break area, employees will associate this as a place continually filled with positive experiences.
8. Ask Employees – want to know a simple, risk-proof way to generate break room ideas that employees will love? Ask them. That’s what the experts suggest. If you are concerned about spending, give them a budget. Or, tell them there is no budget and ask them to come up with suggestions on a shoestring. You might be surprised. And the staff will have buy-in on the project so it becomes a company-wide effort, not just HR or management.
When it comes to break areas, here’s the bottom line for bosses to think about. In this day and age, with modern technology, many companies are very similar. Many offer nearly the exact same service or product as their competitors.
Where’s the differentiator? It could be in the morale of the staff. A workplace where employees feel prized will result in a workforce that is more devoted to their jobs. Make your employees the happiest in your industry and your company will stand out in that industry.
Why do you think Google is so successful? To optimize the work environment, their human resources department (with a techy name – is called the “People Operations Department”) uses the same data mining techniques to improve the work environment that the company uses for their products. That’s why Google was named the Best Place to Work in the US for four years straight.
Again, you don’t need to go gonzo like Google. Just a few break room ideas can have a major, uplifting impact on productivity. The improvement can be just as simple as placing a few outdoor benches under a tree. But the return on investment in higher production, employee retention and better recruitment can be extremely profitable.