The Importance of Break Rooms for Employee Satisfaction, Productivity, and Wellness
Since the rise of the modern office building, the water cooler has been the place where colleagues congregate to discuss the topics of the day: the big game, the latest television twist, or weekend plans. Over time, the simple water cooler has evolved, and most workplaces contain some sort of break room/kitchen area where employees can refresh themselves, at least with food and drink.
Employers may have once decried the time that employees spent away from their desks or workspaces, chatting with co-workers instead of “working.” However, several studies have shown that water cooler chats actually improve productivity—by as much as 15 percent! Rather than discouraging water cooler chat, employers should encourage it with break rooms that attract employees. To maximize the benefits from your break room, consider these tips:
- Make it pleasant. In the past, break rooms were created from leftover space with leftover furniture and appliances. However, it pays to invest a little to make your break room more attractive: paint the walls with cheery colors, provide artwork, and encourage employee participation by making it a place they will enjoy.
- Make it collaborative. Some of the most important skills in today’s world are communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Design your break room to encourage these skills by providing tables and groupings of comfortable chairs and couches.
- Make it healthy. Provide a range of food options (without excessive sugar or fat) to help satisfy employees’ hunger. USConnect’s The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program helps workers stay healthy by providing accessible nutritional information and an easy-to-find logo.
- Make it sustainable. If feasible, provide non-disposable dishes and cutlery and a sink for washing-up. At a minimum, provide recycling options. Sustainability is increasing important, especially among millennial workers.
Job stress is a drain on worker productivity, not to mention happiness. Lessen the load with a break room, and reap the rewards!
Stand and Deliver
If you follow workplace wellness trends, you’ve probably noticed that standing desks are getting a lot of attention these days. There is ample reason for the hype surrounding an alternative to traditional sitting desks; as several studies have shown, sitting is very bad for your health. Sitting puts an extra 40 percent of pressure on your spine, and a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, and even increased risk of dementia and cancer! The health risks prompted some to claim that “sitting is the new smoking.”
Working Americans spend an average of six to 10 hours a day sitting, usually in front of a computer. But how to work without sitting? Enter the standing desk, touted by many as a cure-all for the problems that prolonged sitting brings. Custom standing desks are available for thousands of dollars, or homemade ones can be fashioned from planks, books, and other household items.
Research shows that spending at least part of your day at a standing desk has some considerable benefits, including:
- Reduced risk of obesity
- Reduced risk of cancer, especially breast and colon cancer
- Improved posture
- Less pressure on spine, so reduction of some back pain
- Longer life
That being said, research shows that replacing sitting all day with standing all day is not ideal either. Standing for long periods can increase lower back pain, decrease concentration on certain tasks, and result in enlarged veins. The key, it seems, is movement and moderation. Going back and forth between sitting and standing during the course of the day is much more beneficial than choosing one position and staying in it for eight hours. Many people are now choosing convertible sit/stand desks that allow for that flexibility, and adding accessories like anti-fatigue mats to reduce pressure on legs.
Employee retention, especially in quick-turnover fields like information technology, is a perpetual problem for employers. How can companies keep their most valuable resources —their employees—happy? It turns out that the answer is simple: offer them free snacks.
A recent survey by ORC International for Peapod (a grocery delivery service) found that 66 percent of employees in companies with “nicely stocked” kitchens rate themselves as “very happy” or “extremely happy” in their jobs. Of those who do not have this perk, 40 percent admit to being envious of friends who work for companies that do. Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34), in particular, seek this kind of workplace benefit; 66 percent say they would leave their current company for one that offered perks like snacks. Further, millennials were more than three times more likely to care about the availability of free office snacks than their colleagues who were over age 45.
Peapod, the grocery delivery system that commissioned the survey, has seen grocery deliveries to offices rise in recent years, with a focus on produce and other healthy food. These are some of the most popular items:
- Navel and Clementine oranges
- Strawberries and blueberries
- Gala apples
- Red seedless grapes
- Bartlett pears
- Granola bars
- Snack packs of pretzels and other salty snacks
- Yogurt, especially Greek varieties
Peapod’s experience echoes wider trends governing healthy eating. Indeed, 83 percent of ORC’s survey participants said that having fresh and healthy snacks available is a “huge perk.” Since more than 56 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I hit an afternoon slump if I don’t have any snacks to refuel my energy,” it makes sense that employers would embrace this relatively low-cost way of increasing both productivity and employee loyalty.
With USConnect’s wireless integrated food service network, providing employees with the healthy snacks they want could be easier than ever. By issuing employees pre-loaded payment cards, they can choose the snacks they want at the times they want them. Keep the millennials happy, and the rest will come!