We live in a very turbulent digitized information age. Employees are tasked with many responsibilities and strict time restrictions. Meeting deadlines is imperative for any business to succeed and come out on top in this competitive global market. This constant and perpetual race can leave people feeling exhausted. Hard work and effort can burn employees out which, in turn, influences the quality and performance of the final product or service.
Even in a sedentary-style office, long working hours in front of a screen are physically and mentally exhausting. Lately, companies are trying to mitigate these negative effects with break rooms. These serve for lunch breaks and generally getting employees’ minds off of work for a moment. Break rooms serve multiple purposes and reflects company culture. Having active involvement is essential for employees to actually enjoy their time in the break room. Since these engagement levels are generally dropping, what could we do to reverse this trend and make it work in our favor? We will focus on everyone’s favorite pastime: coffee.
Stress and Tension Relief
As we mentioned, the modern workplace can be very demanding on the mind and the body. Coffee breaks in designated break rooms are the first line of defense against stress and tension. Everyone needs a short break here and there to bring all the negative traits to manageable levels and provide personal and professional benefits. Employers and employees can catch up on non-work-related subjects and clear their minds from the everyday realities of the office.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine is not a stimulant. Rather, it is a neurological blocker of sorts that makes us feel less tired and more alert. Research has also shown a direct correlation between caffeine intake and reduced risk of depression. Caffeine interacts with our brain’s chemistry and affects substances that fight off stress-related symptoms. There are a potentially infinite number of causes for stress and they are all subjective. They might not even be just work-related. Having coffee breaks at work with employees for a few minutes, even in the busiest of schedules, can revitalize anyone. Combining that with a brisk walk to stretch the legs and get the blood flowing makes for a great boost in energy levels.
Collaboration and Relationships
Coffee breaks in designated break room areas bring people together on a personal and professional level by promoting both vertical and horizontal socialization amongst colleagues. Needless to say, having a synergistic and harmonious environment relieves stress and increases job satisfaction. Employees usually take short breaks away from their desks in groups. This allows them to mingle with their workmates, relax, and share ideas with one another. This is where most of the learning comes from, interaction. There is much more to sharing a short break and grabbing a snack with coffee than initially meets the eye. It can allow employees to get to know each other. Coffee and snacks are mediums and break rooms are just locations which all, when combined, facilitate synergy, socialization, and collaboration. When friendship and camaraderie are established, they can be used as examples for others on how to support each other. This is a good environment in which a person or an entire team can do their duties and responsibilities, knowing that they are a part of something.
The Cultural Factor
Coffee has become a widely available commodity. It comes in a plethora of flavors and variants and there is something for everyone. As we have hinted before, there is a growing trend of people not making use of their lunch break. They are opting to stay at their desks or at least take even shorter breaks in order to get work done and meet deadlines. It is common belief lately that if one stays at their desk, they will use their spare time productively. Although this way of thinking was made out of best intentions, it often does not bring the expected results. Engagement at work is at an all-time low and it is still dropping. Skipping breaks at work is counterproductive as it induces disengagement, dissatisfaction, and general inefficiency.
Now, we cannot force our employees to take coffee and lunch breaks, but we can encourage them. Structured breaks are something that anyone could and should do regularly. Motivating a break-conscious culture will allow employees to recharge their batteries, reduce stress, and increase focus and productivity. The bottom line is, satisfaction and quality of work goes up when employees take breaks.
A Quality Coffee Break
How do we make the most out of our limited coffee break at work? First of all, those moments should be regarded as dedicated non-telephone calls and non-work-related periods. These short periods need to be spent to relaxing, reflecting, and relieving oneself from stress. Research has found that it is much more beneficial to take more shorter breaks rather than fewer longer ones. Obviously, this depends on personal preference and the nature of the business being conducted. Heavy physical labor may actually benefit greatly from longer breaks, but a sedentary-style office environment usually needs a quick mental reboot.
Having an ample choice of coffee blends is beneficial because then employees can choose the types of coffee that they personally like. Automatic coffee machines can prove to be invaluable and multiply the number of choices provided by the kitchen stock. Combine that with various healthy snacks and your employees have an excellent break room experience. Scheduled times for breaks vary from company to company. There are pros and cons to employer issued break intervals, and they depends on a number of factors. They can bring all employees together at the same time, which will also reduce segregation and group forming. On the other side, it can appear forced and inauthentic. Breaks free of supervision, as long as they are reasonable in length, are authentic and enable that degree of spontaneity that forms lasting relationships.
For break rooms to be effective, employers need their employees to feel like they are taking an actual break from work. If companies can create a space with a relaxing atmosphere, completely separated from the working environment, that is the goal. Vibrant colors and comfortable furniture will help businesses reach this goal. Different types of people require different types of breaks. It is not a bad idea if the office can spare the space, to make two separate break rooms. One could be intended for traditional purposes, like socialization and collective rest and relaxation. The more silence-minded individuals can use the other one, and everyone can be left alone with their own thoughts. To each their own, in a sense. For example, a programmer will greatly appreciate some socialization and human interaction after several hours of staring down a command line. On the other hand, a customer service agent will most likely want some peace and quiet for those few, coffee-infused minutes.
Break rooms are also great places for our employees to engage in some fun, distracting activities. Employers can encourage this behavior by fitting out break room with games and activities for the employees to take part in. Depending on the amount of room at our disposal, there are seemingly an endless number of choices to pick from. Pool tables and Ping-Pong tables do require the most space but offer great chances for socialization with some healthy competition. Arcades and gaming consoles are also a great choice, but do mind that they lack the benefits of actually stretching one’s legs, as most games are played while sitting down. Finally, board games are timeless and offer great opportunities for bonding between employees. Also, these have the benefit of forming the biggest teams. A game of Risk can have up to 8 players at a time, for example.
At any point in time, several people can use a break room. Alternatively, it can be made into a great place for larger organized activities such as birthday parties or similar festivities. Celebrating important life events with their coworkers builds friendships and trust amongst employees. For these activities, ample space is needed. If that is not a possibility, there are a number of ways to optimize space that the office has available. Folding tables and chairs and movable entertainment equipment are just a few of the examples.
Keeping Up with the Trends
Putting up a break room with all the necessities can be one of the most important and fun activities business owners can do for their office, but it is not a set it and forget it type of ordeal. For employees to actually enjoy it, break rooms need to be maintained and kept up to date. Hygiene is obviously important, and so is organization. Features can quickly become outdated, especially with various types of games that might be introduced. One can only play checkers so many times before it gets a little stale. Decorations and gadgets can often be updated with next to no cost. The key is to keep employees engaged and motivated to take constructive breaks.
Listening to Employee Feedback
Before companies even design or update our break room, we need to know what our employees actually want. Also, what is it that will benefit our team the most, and make their time spent on a break as productive as possible? Listening to the employees and taking their opinions into account will make a leader’s job a lot easier. Employers can gain a lot of insight by listening to all of their employees. If several options are being considered, but are limited by factors like space or money, a poll can be a great idea. Questionnaires and surveys are also great ways of directly gathering feedback from the teams in the office. Once all the relevant data is gathered, then an informed and calculated decision on what will benefit the biggest majority of our employees can be made.
Coffee breaks at work have many benefits. If the individual employee is happy, rested, healthy, and engaged, that reflects positively on the entire company. Minimizing stress, tension, and overall dissatisfaction will improve workplace productivity and efficiency. It is not a luxury to organize a coffee break, it is a necessity. The best time of the day to take a break is in the first half of the day. Embracing the coffee culture will help businesses gain and retain happy and satisfied employees.