Believe it or not, there is debate about the importance of a break room in the office. I have heard opinions that break rooms cause trouble, that people get into arguments and the it is an unnecessary cost. Before you start picking sides, you should know your local laws about break rooms. In my opinion, break rooms are an essential part of an office and they are often under appreciated and underutilized. Break rooms are more than a place to store your lunch, buy a snack or snag a cup of coffee. Break rooms are a place where employees can step out of the work zone without stepping out of the office. Break rooms offer a place where people can develop friendships within the company. It is also a place to unwind.
Your brain is a powerful tool. It is like a muscle; you need to let your brain rest every now and then if you want it to be sharp. When I take breaks, often I notice that I am more alert and have more inspiration to keep moving through the day. When tensions get high, it is nice to get out of the working area for a little while and let your brain rest. Google has billiards, video games and ping-pong on site maybe that has helped Google to become so successful. I am not sure to what extent break rooms have helped employees remain productive, but I am convinced that it helps. You don't need to go as far as Google went in its break room design, but you should have a clean and pleasant place for people to go for a break.
Makes life a little more pleasant
Who doesn't want to be happy? By having a well put together break room, you are making an investment to make work just a little bit better for your employees. It gives your workers a place to bond with other workers. These bonds can help you encourage trust and help in team work settings. This also can help make things more pleasant for customers. In my experience, if employees have nowhere to go for a break, they may hang around in the main working area. If they are around customers and customers are waiting for something, they may not realize the employee is off the clock. This could create a negative customer experience and come across as bad service.
Break rooms are just another small thing you can do for your employees to show them that you care about them and not just the numbers. One of the most difficult things to mimic in competition is the unique relationships that exist within a company. Competitors can purchase the same software you own (unless it is proprietary software), they can set up systems that are similar to yours and do a whole lot more to copy your business. When you have strong relationships, trust, and people who love working at your company, it is difficult to copy. It is pretty common for employers to have complimentary beverages and a place for workers to let go of some of the pressures of the work day. If you are doing exactly what everyone else is doing, you can expect getting what everyone else is getting. If you want more, you are going to have to take a step above and beyond the average way of doing things.
How do you go a step beyond?
There are small and simple things that you can do to make your break room a step above the rest. Here are a couple ideas.
1. Make it fun
- Cook-off's: Have a chili cook off or a baking contest. Let employees bring in their creations and share their skills. They will take pride in their work and enjoy sharing with others. Get creative for creativity. Give a wide variety of prizes. You can use this as a way to create traditions. Take pictures and document the contests. You can put the information into the weekly or monthly news letter.
- Seasonal: Have your employees bring in carved pumpkins during the season of Halloween and have contests for who has the best carved pumpkin. Have a winter holiday giving jar and let employees donate for a good cause.
- Activities: Have a ping pong tournament after work on a specific day. Put up a list where employees can list activities so people can get together and bond after work.
- Treats: Have a signup sheet for people to bring treats on Fridays.
2. Keep it nice
- Responsibility: Make sure employees know what is expected of them to do their part in keeping things clean and in order.
- Up to date: You don't have to have a state of the art break room, but if it is not comfortable and relatively nice, you are defeating the purpose.
- Clean: whether you have hired someone to clean the office or you have taken it upon yourself, make sure things are always clean. Make a monthly schedule to clean out the fridge.
3. Source of information
- Corporate culture: the break room can be a great place to remind employees what makes the company unique. Post core values and the mission statement somewhere where it will be been.
- Give employees reminders: you may decide to make a board with important dates for the company. Remind employees about employee discounts.
Often the break rooms is not really thought of as an important part of the company, but putting the time into making break rooms a place where corporate culture can be cultivated will help companies develop stronger relationships with employees.