November gave us Thanksgiving with its turkey leftovers and a side dish of shopping receipts. However, December gives us something much more: an office filled with holiday sweets of bagels, cookies and fruit baskets piling up in your break room. Slowly, the once-plain break room has been (or will be) transformed into a festive place with goodies and team members sharing a cup of coffee. It's a good place to see office culture come to life.

But what if you don't have a break room — or don't think you need one? Here are some reasons why we think a common gathering space is still important:

Can we use the space for workstations instead?

Not everyone eats in the break room, and that includes me. Because if I skip my lunch break and eat at my desk, I can take my usual train home.  However, I do take breaks throughout the day. Sometimes, the 30 second walk to the break room is enough for me to recharge and clear my head before charging on. So why advocate for a break room?  It's all about opportunity: to refresh and recharge, interact with peers and to host group meetings or casual celebrations.

Having a break room fosters interaction with peers you rarely talk to. Casual gatherings like town hall meetings and special announcements work better in break rooms because it feels more appropriate. Board rooms or other conference rooms can feel stuffy and too formal for celebrations.  Having a break room encourages everyone to hang out more, encourage dialogue and break down barriers. More importantly, activities like this enable office culture.

Office culture is about the team — collectively and with no hierarchy involved. It is how your team carries out their work based on the organization's actions and set goals.  Carving out a space intended for gathering and dialogue supports connecting with others and encourages unplanned collaboration. 

Build it well and they will come.

Some tips for building a great break room:

  • Casual furniture, bright colors and interesting mix of finish materials are part of designing a break room. It is a communal area in the office where we can bring a little bit of fun and whimsy. It's the special area in the office, and it is only fitting to make it look the part, too. 
  • Pull casual lounge pieces and accessorize with pillows and magazines.
  • Bring different kinds of seating arrangements from benches, picnic tables, stackable chairs and counter-height stools. This promotes more seating options, support for posture and looks more dynamic than populating the space with the same chairs.
  • Long tables mimic your dining room and encourage everyone to sit next to each other and have a conversation.
  • Install a flat screen TV.  It's a good ice breaker when you do not have anything to talk about besides the weather.
  • Bring life to your space with color. Use color in wall tiles, chairs and even on floors!
  • Lastly, evaluate your beverage selection and snack options. Remember, a well-fed employee is a happy employee!

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