The realisation that offices need to offer their staff a change in setting is gathering pace. In essence, having a bespoke space in the office to go and eat your lunch and get away from the desk can help explain the rise of breakout areas. Read on to see why.
What Are Breakout Areas?
These are a space in the office building which staff can use to get away from their desk – to breakout from their regular working area – usually as a means of having a break from work. This can be at lunch time or in a permitted timed break (which are still common at larger institutions).
Some offices use breakout areas as a place to solely spend your break and lunch time. Somewhere with a microwave, kettle and somewhere to sit and eat, with perhaps a TV in the corner.
But bespoke breakout areas will facilitate communal and informal working as well as offering a place to sit and eat lunch.
Being able to change environment from task to task or one period of the day to another is important for both wellbeing and productivity. We have written on this subject previously as studies and surveys emerged throughout 2016 which showed office workers want to be able to vary their working environment. They also want to be able to have control about where they complete their work.
For example, your usual 9-5 desk space might not be suitable for communal working or when you need to spread out a range of notes and documents. Or being surrounded by colleagues might not be conducive to high level concentration.
Read more about concerns in the What Workers Want survey and how office workers feel about offices in the UK in these two blog posts here and here.
The Benefits Of Breakout Areas
Breakout areas which are isolated from the main working space offer the maximum chance of switching off during rest and lunch breaks.
When taking lunch at your desk it is too tempting to keep an eye on incoming emails or for colleagues to ask work-related questions during time that is actually your own. What’s more, the fact that you are sitting alongside colleagues who are still working can lead to the shortening of one’s own break or create a feeling of guilt.
Having a dedicated breakout space can alleviate this issue and promote a healthy attitude towards taking a rest and getting away from your desk. A large charity partnership found that almost three in five UK office workers struggle to peel themselves away from their desk at lunchtime. And over half never leave the office at lunch.
This is detrimental to both physical and mental health.
Besides the increase in stress caused by a sedentary office day being sat at the same desk in the same chair (even if it’s ergonomic), prolonged use of a computer screen causes eye fatigue. This in turn, causes productivity to slow as workers struggle to maintain focus and energy. Also, having tasks which use a computer screen for more than an hour at a time requires employers to help their employees manage their prolonged use of a screen.
A welcoming, comfortable and accessible breakout area will go a long way to facilitating healthy working practices in your office. It will encourage leaving your desk at rest and lunch break times, but outside of lunch hours, the breakout space can also be used by employees who simply want to get away from their computer screen for a while.
It may be useful to check out HSE’s guide to Display Screen Equipment, if you require some further reading on the subject.
Freshening The Mind
As well as preventing screen fatigue, being able to work in a different space is of great benefit to your employees.
Larger tables and different seating can be incorporated into breakout areas, so that working can be alternated between a person’s usual desk and another area completely. A breakout area can be in another room or simply behind dividing screen walls and be furnished with items which are different from the regular work space.
For example, booth seating and soft furnishings or simple tables with pull up chairs can offer a fresh working position which inspires renewed quality of thought. It will create a noticeable change from the usual desk and chair setup.
This will help your team become more productive and work with more enthusiasm than if every task had to be performed at the same desk, day in, day out.
The breakout area can also be utilised as an adhoc or informal meeting room too. A chance to brainstorm and discuss ideas will feel a lot more productive when taking place in a comfortable area which is distinct from the regular workspace.
During rest and lunch breaks, the fact that the breakout area is a communal place to take your lunch breaks will mean that employees will interact with members of the workforce which they wouldn’t ordinarily.
This encourages an increase in morale and inter-team bonding – as somebody in the accounts department realises they do actually have a lot in common with one of the designers, for example – but also promotes collaboration of thought and ideas on work related issues.
It will also help teams to realise what each department is working on, more readily, which helps your employees to see where their work sits in the bigger picture of the company.