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5 ways to make your breakroom more inviting

Two women laughing and eating lunch

“The biggest mistake is allowing the breakroom to be the forgotten place where the dirty microwave and Department of Labor regulations live.”

This lament from Robert Benson, designer with CannonDesign in Chicago, sums up how many of us feel about the company breakroom. the company breakroom, but you can change that!

Making a small investment in a cheerier breakroom just a nice thing to have for businesses—it pays off.

“Compare the cost of any furniture, fixture and equipment purchases—generally one-time, fixed and not often large—to the costs of staffing, which are ongoing, escalating and big,” says Kevin Hoult, certified business advisor with the Western Washington University Small Business Development Center in Bellingham, WA. “This comparison generally shows that a small, one-time investment in the breakroom can impact the ongoing, escalating costs of staff. Breakroom investments can offer a significant return.”

Here are 5 fairly inexpensive investments you can make to better your breakroom:

  • Accessories: Break the monotony of corporate furnishings with fun accessories such as wall clocks and coasters. “Don’t make it boring — nobody likes boring. Boring makes people unhappy, so you’ll defeat your purpose anyway,” says Taylor Aldredge, ambassador of buzz for Grasshopper in Boston.
  • Color: “Breakrooms are often a nice opportunity to provide a brand respite,” says Gable Clarke, associate and interior design director for Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, which has offices in Boston and New York. “Breakrooms may incorporate a totally different palette and whimsical graphics.” Go big with a painted accent wall, choose furnishings in a cheerful color, or select a peel-and-stick chalkboard or pre-printed or custom wall decals to liven up the space.
  • Photography: Photos always add interest. Of course, you can use stock photography, but at CBG Benefits in Woburn, MA, the breakroom walls bear framed photos of company activities. Some feature employees at company events, parties and outings; others are from trade shows, conferences or news clippings. “Not only do these serve as excellent conversation icebreakers, but depending on the size of your company, it may help to expose employees to what’s happening throughout the organization,” says Jason Pinto, director of marketing. “We all get so focused on the daily individual tasks in front of us, but seeing these pictures reminds us of our mission and of the value that we’re delivering to our clients. This can provide an extra feeling of accomplishment and motivation for many of our employees.”
  • TVs: Breakroom TVs enable employees to stay up on the news or watch special events together. “We’re a hardworking group, so watching too much TV hasn’t been a problem; most of the time we use the TV for presentations, meetings and as a centralized source of sales and operational information,” says Joe O’Neill, marketing communications manager for The Expert Institute in New York. “That being said, it was great having it during the World Cup.”
  • Games: Speaking of fun, invest in products that help employees work off steam and recharge their batteries. Foosball tables have been in vogue for years, but don’t forget smaller items such as board games. The breakroom at The Nerdery in Bloomington, MN, features daily Magic card games, chess and other popular games, according to Mark Malmberg, co-president and communications director for the firm. Also popular are areas for Wii, Xbox and other console gaming.

Although a lively breakroom may seem like a trivial pursuit in the face of KPIs, EBITDA and other operational realities, Benson says it’s good business. “Take this as seriously as you take your business,” he advises. “Think of the kind of culture you want for the organization and make plans to achieve that culture. Recognize that the breakroom is an essential part of the workplace and make it your own.” Contributing Writer

Margot Carmichael Lester is a business journalist, consultant and owner of The Word Factory, a creative and content agency in Carrboro, NC. Her favorite breakroom amenities include locally roasted coffee, bubbly for celebrating accomplishments and a pile of great magazines about topics outside her areas of interest.