The office break room is the heart of a workplace community. A well-designed space can encourage connection, enhance team wellness, and benefit your bottom line. With a few improvements, you can turn a basic break room into a gathering place for employees from across the company.

The office break room: what makes it so important?

The employee break room might seem small, but it’s a valuable part of life in the office. After all, it’s where your team goes to relax, enjoy a snack, and build social relationships. Some companies also use the space for celebrations and team-bonding activities.

Every business could benefit from a thoughtfully designed break room; it gives workers a designated spot to relax and take a much needed break. These restful breaks are critical for productivity and team well-being. Research shows that afterward, employees are better able to focus, perform, and stay safe on the job. Over the long term, the cumulative stress-relieving effects can reduce burnout and increase job satisfaction.

Your office break room can also impact team morale and corporate culture. Employees see the space as a reflection of the company’s attitude toward its workers. A welcoming, well-appointed room shows that you value employee comfort — and more importantly, that you’re willing to invest in their well-being.

Components of the ultimate break room

As you plan a break-room makeover, consider what employees need from the space. In most companies, the break room is a place to slow down and step away from the pressures of the job. To that end, it’s important to design a space that’s serene, functional, and comfortable.

The vital components of a break room are usually the same from office to office. Whether you’re starting from scratch or making budget-friendly improvements, focus your efforts on the four areas below.

Food prep space

Work breaks are often focused on food. Give your employees room to unpack snacks or lunches by adding a spacious prep area like countertops. Make sure the basic appliances are within easy reach. At a minimum, install an office coffee station, microwave, sink, and refrigerator.

To reduce clutter, install plenty of storage. Cabinets keep workers’ coffee mugs safe and provide a spot to store snacks and dishes. It’s also helpful to have a basic set of utensils for catered meals and everyday lunches.

Comfortable furniture

Office break rooms require two primary types of furniture: dining and lounging. The dining area should offer a variety of tables with sturdy, armless chairs. Foster community by choosing tables that seat four or more people.

To make the break room even more appealing, turn part of the space into a lounge area. Invest in sofas, plush chairs, or even bean bags to encourage employees to rest their minds and bodies. The soft surfaces feel particularly comfortable after a few hours in a desk chair.

Relaxing lighting

Great lighting is a break-room essential — it creates a calm, pleasant atmosphere that encourages workers to decompress. Sunlight is best; according to UCLA Health,  natural light is proven to improve mood and productivity. By contrast, rooms with limited natural light have been linked to depression and low sleep quality.

Soothing decor

Decor is the unsung hero of an exceptional break room. After all, it can be challenging to relax in a space that feels hard and institutional. Instead, use soothing decor that turns the room into an escape from the busyness of the office. Start with a limited palette of muted tones; the soft effect is a welcome respite from bright phone and computer screens. Studies show that blue and green have a calming effect. You might also try earth tones such as tan and beige.

As you decorate the space, aim for a style that’s reflective of your company culture. Consider relying on the shapes and textures of your furniture to add visual interest, and accent it with a few restrained pieces of art. Plants are the perfect addition; they can reduce stress and create a fresh pop of color.

Office break room ideas

Once you have the basics covered, take your office break room to the next level with thoughtful amenities and unexpected perks. The employee break room ideas you choose should be tailored to the interests and preferences of the staff. Consider adding:

  • Games. Invest in a supply of board games, puzzles, and card games to promote casual lunch-break competitions and build community among employees. If space allows, consider putting in a foosball table or an air hockey game.
  • Art supplies. Adult coloring books, paints, and markers provide a creative outlet for employees.
  • A library. Build a mini-library in the break room and stock it with everything from novels to coffee-table books and magazines. Reading material provides a nice break from work and encourages workers to disconnect from screens.
  • A coffee and tea bar. Provide a steady stream of hot beverages with a fully stocked coffee and tea bar; select a wide variety of options to keep things interesting. For easier cleanup, consider single-serve coffee makers.
  • Exercise equipment. Your workers might not want to do a sweaty workout in the middle of the day, but you can help them fit in more movement with a few pieces of low-intensity exercise gear. Yoga mats, balance balls, free weights, and foam rollers are all space-efficient options.
  • A quiet area. If you have a larger break room, create a separate quite space. Keep the lights low so workers can close their eyes or meditate in peace during a fast-paced day.
  • A television. Create a separate TV area with access to a few streaming services; workers can drop by to watch the news or bond over the latest episode of a favorite sitcom.

Ask managers to lead by example and use the upgraded break room frequently. With the precedent set, employees may feel more comfortable using the amenities and taking all their allotted lunch and coffee breaks.

Break room activities

As you evaluate different break room ideas, consider how they might be useful outside of the typical break schedule. For example, the casual setting is perfect for low-key client appreciation events and team bonding activities — the comfortable space tends to put everyone at ease.

Some ways you can use the break room for team building include:

  1. Lunch and learns. Once a month, bring in a speaker to give a presentation while employees eat lunch. Aim for a mix of internal and external presenters, and offer a wide selection of topics to keep employees engaged.
  2. Cooking competitions. Organize employees into teams, and give each group an hour to make a different dish in the break-room kitchen. Spend the last hour of the day tasting the dishes and voting on a winner.
  3. Ongoing puzzles. Set up a large puzzle on a table and encourage workers to place a few pieces on every break. See how fast the team can complete the picture.
  4. Board game breaks. After you wrap up a big project or close out the busy season, spend an afternoon playing board games in the break room. Set a timer, and switch up the teams after every game to encourage employees to work with new people.
  5. Trivia Days. Test employees’ random knowledge by splitting into teams and playing trivia. You can choose teams randomly or allow workers to create their own.
  6. Quick crafts. Ask your artistic colleagues to teach a new arts and crafts skill every month. Ideas include friendship bracelets, watercolor flowers, knitting, origami, or DIY holiday decorations.
  7. Indoor office games. Bring a bit of fun to a cold winter day by setting up office games in the break-room. Try discus with paper plates, desk-chair races, paper airplane flying, or an indoor obstacle course.

Every time you host a team bonding event, take photos and put them on a bulletin board in the office break room. The snapshots will serve as a pleasant reminder and give the space a more personal touch.

Food: the break room staple

Food is part of what makes the employee break room such an integral part of office life. Shared meals can be a powerful bonding experience; the act of eating together places everyone on the same level and encourages social connections. Stronger workplace bonds have significant benefits, both for employees and the business:

  • Higher individual well-being
  • More supportive company culture
  • Feeling of belonging
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved productivity
  • Lower call-out rates

How can you encourage workers to dine in the office break room rather than at their desks? Stock it with food. A supply of delicious snacks, drinks, and coffee is sure to draw employees throughout the day.

As you choose snack foods, strive for a mix of fresh, healthy offerings and nonperishable packaged options. Fruits, yogurt, and granola can keep workers’ energy up for hours after a coffee break. Other options include individual bags of chips, cookies, miniature candy bars, sparkling water, and pre-cut veggies. Convenient servings reduce food prep and cleanup, so employees have more time to chat.

Using food to improve team cooperation

If your business wants to build innovation and collaboration, consider taking your efforts a step further — provide employees with free lunches. Your team will appreciate the perk, and the resulting spike in camaraderie can lead to exciting workplace developments. In fact, researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business discovered that after people share family-style meals, they collaborate more effectively. Plus, a lunch break is a low-pressure way to connect people from different departments and seniority levels.

There are a few ways to provide food, whether you’re offering a daily meal or a monthly employee-appreciation lunch. Traditional catering is an efficient option for larger companies. If your employees have a variety of preferences or dietary restrictions, it may be more efficient to order individual meals; the same goes for teams that include remote workers.

No matter which option works best for you, Grubhub Corporate Accounts makes ordering easy. You can schedule a catered meal from a local eatery or allow employees to choose their own food using a predetermined budget. All meals arrive at the same time and are charged to your company account for convenient accounting.

Grubhub Corporate Accounts come with access to all the restaurants on the Grubhub platform, ensuring you can find a cuisine for every occasion and dietary preference. Some of the most popular office lunch options include:

  • Pizza
  • Sushi
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Thai
  • Mexican

Whether you’re providing snacks or catered lunches, food is a surefire way to enhance the benefits of your office break room. To find out how Grubhub Corporate Accounts can help you design a streamlined, cost-efficient ordering process, get started today.