Have you noticed how the working day seems to be getting longer?
You spend at least eight hours a day at work. If you are like many people, that number is closer to nine or ten hours a day.
However, employers are starting to recognise this and realising that, quite often, the harder you work your employees, the less productive they become.
Many are also recognising that sitting in isolation at a desk all day is not exactly good for socialising and collaborating.
The answer? Helping your employees to relax more when they are at work. This might sound like a contradiction in terms, but providing a separate, open and welcoming space for employees to relax in can result in a far greater work ethic and are very much inspired by the domestic environment. When you go to a party, where do you find everyone congregating? In the kitchen, of course, so office relaxation spaces are often centred around the availability of food and drink.
With the modern way of working often meaning we’re spending much more time at our desks, glued to our computer screens, the idea of a break out area is becoming increasingly attractive to employees. But why should you, as an employer, create a break out area in your offices?
A break out area describes any space open to employees or visitors that is separate from their usual working area. It can be a place for employees to relax, eat their lunch and even hold informal meetings. Giving employees time away from their computer screen also complies with health and safety laws which require staff to take frequent breaks from their work stations when computers are being used. They can also be used for spur of the moment meet-ups with fellow employees or informal meetings with clients.
Small to medium companies can sometimes see a break out area as an unnecessary luxury that the company cannot afford but employers should consider the benefits and how this will impact on employees’’ performance before ruling it out.
An office break out area needn’t be extravagant or even take up much space. If a separate room isn’t available, why not use a screening system to section off part of your open plan office? However, most important is to create the right atmosphere in such spaces. Forget drab and dingy: people will prefer to stay at their desks if the space is dark and too closed off. Create a light and welcoming space, with good facilities that encourage relaxation and a rest from the job.
Remember to provide different types of seating if you can. Canteen or multipurpose chairs around a central table provide somewhere to hold meeting or have lunch. You should also add some soft furnishings, such as tub chairs or sofas, so employees feel relaxed and comfortable.
Different seating combinations also allows people to either sit in their own space, or socialise with colleagues as they prefer.
Low tables are also a very good idea as not everyone will want to use the space for “relaxing” in the traditional sense. Some may find it useful for working in and, given the rise of the laptop and wireless technology, moving your workspace around the office has never been easier.
The space can also be used for informal meetings with other staff and, depending on your overall ethos and relationship with those you do business with, it can also be the ideal place to meet with clients.
Ideally, the space should be easily accessible to everyone, but try to avoid a main traffic route; it’s hardly relaxing if people keep walking right through the middle just to get from A to B. Depending on what your business does, you may also have to consider the impact of sound; too noisy an area will be conducive to nothing other than more noise, so pick a quiet space where there is little noise pollution.
You could also consider putting up large whiteboards for brainstorming exercises, demonstrating a particularly difficult point or simply for doodling – although you may have to set some guidelines as to what the latter should consist of!
But why would you go to all this trouble?
Current research shows that offices with employees who are always working are not necessarily the most productive. Moving away from your usual workspace for as little as five minutes can be very good for regaining focus and allowing creativity to flourish.
All work and no play leads to absenteeism and compromised productivity. More and more companies are realising the benefits of providing relaxation areas for their employees. Such areas should be well thought out – ask for the views of your staff as to what they want and need, and how they would like the area to look. Or, if you’re still struggling, call us for advice. We’d be happy to help.