The typical break room/lunchroom looks something like this:
The floor is linoleum; the lighting is fluorescent; the tables and chairs are plastic, cracked and functional rather than ergonomic; the refrigerator is stuffed with brown paper bags, styrofoam cartons, cans of pop and cartons of souring milk and leaky baggies.
On the counter is a small microwave that hasn’t been properly cleaned since Ronald Reagan was President. There’s a coffee maker, a condiment holder for salt, sugar, pepper, powdered creamer, hot chocolate mix and a gaping hole where the paper napkins are supposed to nestle. If employees are lucky(?) there might be a free soft drink dispenser, but never any ice.
And the break room piece de resistance — the vending machine. At seven feet, it towers over employees who make frequent pilgrimages to its plexiglass front to drop in coins for candy bars, microwave popcorn, soda, bags of ancient peanuts harvested by the slaves of the Pharaoh a millennia ago and bags of greasy, salty chips.
Instead of calling this a break room, it ought to be called a breakdown room, for employees are certainly not going to find much in it to improve their health. The statistics speak for themselves – out-of-shape and obese workers take more sick time and are less effective than workers who focus on their health. These statistics are reflected in the company’s bottom line.
Many progressive companies recognize the importance of working with employees to encourage good health habits, at home and in the workplace. They offer free or discounted gym memberships and smoking cessation classes, among other things. But quite often even the most progressive enterprise is surprisingly lax about their break room. Employers shouldn’t be—it can be a key element in raising the healthiness of employees.
Install carpet in the break room to provide employees with a sense of comfort and ease. Replace the fluorescent lighting with indirect lamps that can help lower stress levels and replace breakroom furniture that belongs at Goodwill. Otherwise the message sent to employees is that the company doesn’t care enough about them to provide a safe, clean and healthy place to relax.
For instance, a few potted plants go a long way in removing the inbred sterility of any break room. Have the microwave and fridge cleaned professionally and consistently. Dirt and odor are never conducive to pumping up employee morale. Next to the coffee maker, make sure to have a choice of good herbal teas. While the science is still ambiguous about their benefits, herbal teas at least provide a great alternative to caffeine and sugar-loaded hot chocolate mix.
Last but not least, upgrade vendors for your vending machines. Vending technology has made some tremendous strides in the past few years. You can now get a HealthyYOU Vending machine placed in your break room at no cost. This healthy vending machines dispenses a tremendous variety of both snacks and drinks that are healthy, all-natural and organic. There are also gluten-free and low-carb options as well.
The better your break room choices become, the less time employees will spend off-site looking for a better place to eat. This alone can produce a significant boost in overall productivity!