Setting up a break room in the office – the attractiveness of employers is playing an increasingly important role in the business world. Employees who feel comfortable in their workplace like to work and are more willing to do their best. Workplaces that are equipped in an employee-friendly way have a positive effect on the health of employees and increase motivation. Studies have shown this repeatedly.

However, the lunch break is often ignored. It is not only the diet itself that plays a significant role in the well-being of employees, but also the way they eat. Those who bolt down their food while working at their computer screens or skip their lunch break altogether, increase the stress level of their everyday working life. Breaks are essential. Break and lounge areas where people spend their time to relax support the health at a workplace immensely. So, there are even legal regulations on this.

Legal requirements for break rooms in the company

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A break room is required for ten or more employees or if certain health risks occur in the workplace.

Many companies consider a pleasantly designed break room not a priority.

Investments that are considered more important often disregard the furnishing of a break room. However, break rooms must always be set up if there are more than ten employees or if there is an increased health risk due to noise pollution, heat, or the handling of dangerous substances.

The new workplace regulation refers to companies where high or very low temperatures apply, where offices do not offer daylight, where dust and dirt pollution occur, or where offices are also open for visitors. In these cases, setting up a break area is obligatory, regardless of the number of employees. An exception applies to office spaces free of work-related disturbances due to telephone calls or customer visits during the break. Then the German workplace regulation ASR A4.2 considers the relaxation factor to be of equally high value.

What has to be considered when setting up the room?

The workplace regulation ASR A4.2 defines, how the lounge must be set up. The most important aspect is that employees can relax there. This means it must be an enclosed and quiet room or area that also offers daylight.

According to the regulation, environmental noise must not exceed 55 decibels. There must be sufficient places to sit and tables available, as well as places to lie down, for example for the severely disabled or pregnant women. If there is no canteen in the company, there must be possibilities to cool and heat food. If there is a canteen, it may also be used as a break room.

The size of the room is also regulated by law. The minimum size is six square metres, with one square metre calculated for each employee. Accordingly, the more employees a company has, the bigger the break room needs to be. The exact dimensions as well as the room height are defined in workplace regulation A1.2 regarding the size of the room and sufficient space to move.

Therefore, the legal regulation is quickly complied with by providing the appropriate furnishings. But it´s not enough to increase the well-being of the employees and thus the attractiveness of the employer. To ensure that the break room is used by everyone, the space should be planned creatively. If possible, employees should be involved in the design.

This way, individual ideas and needs can be considered. After all, each employee working more than six hours is entitled to a 30-minute break, which he or she can take throughout the day in consultation with the team. If the working time exceeds nine hours, the break entitlement increases to 45 minutes.

This is how the lounge area is used

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Providing a break room not only has numerous benefits for your employees.

Setting up a break room can be worthwhile even if your company is not legally obliged to do so. In most cases, this can be done very quickly and affordably. Furniture or plants can easily be used to create mobile separating walls so that quiet zones can be separated from areas where more conversations take place, such as the café and dining area. In this way, a conventional and perhaps uncomfortable canteen is transformed into a cosy and vivid café. Here are some suggestions:

Avoid inflexible seating arrangements and instead furnish with smaller and larger tables. Some employees like to eat alone. Others prefer to sit at the table in company. Comfortable seating should also be available for teams that want to have a break or lunch together. Eating together strengthens the feeling of belonging among colleagues and has a positive influence on the working atmosphere. Quite a few good ideas have been created at the dining table.

Choose the colours of the walls and the furnishings carefully and according to colour-psychological aspects. Friendly colours such as green, light yellow or orange have a cheerful effect and lift the mood. Blue, on the other hand, conveys calm and relaxation.

With the help of colour samples and cards from the DIY shop, employees can choose their favourites and feel immediately involved in the design process. Light colours for furniture and decorations as well as plants and nature pictures create positive impressions. Such a break room ensures optimal regeneration for employees.

Eating healthy in the workplace is an important issue. If a canteen is available, a selection of fresh salads will provide the necessary nutrients and vitamins. Modern diet trends such as low carb and vegan or vegetarian meals should also be considered. Also make sure that fruit and healthy drinks are available. In this way, you positively influence the eating behaviour of your employees and create the ideal conditions for conscious and healthy nutrition at the workplace.

For companies not having their own canteen, a café or mini self-service market with healthy snacks, soups, cereals, or salads can replace the classic kitchen. In addition to coffee specialities, the trend also includes smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. If employees tend to bring their own lunch or breakfast, a kitchen counter and coffee machine will ensure a good lunch break.

Additional measures make the break even more pleasant

Taking time-out from the workplace increases the productivity of employees. After a break and taking a step back from work, they often return to their desks with fresh motivation. This causes better work results. But there are even more measures offered when it comes to work-related health care:

You won´t need much preparation before moving. For example, employees can take the stairs instead of the lift on the way to the break room or walk a few steps around the block after lunch. A walk in the fresh air reduces stress and improves the blood supply. It gets the circulation going and, by the way, exercise puts you in a good mood. Sports activities during the lunch break revitalise the employees’ minds and bodies, and sporting events strengthen the sense of unity. Within a campaign in which small teams are provided with pedometers, the health awareness of colleagues can be trained in an entertaining way in connection with a sporting competition.

Massage offerings are an optimal preventive measure to relieve muscular tension caused by long periods of working at a desk. A short massage accompanied by calm music effectively recharges the batteries and has a positive effect on your employees’ performance. Regular treatments prevent back pain and absences due to illness.

Using electronic media in the break room

Especially in companies with young employees, the question of the use of electronic media in the break room needs to be addressed. Many users find the use of smartphones during short breaks relaxing. Games, chats, and videos distract from thoughts of work and can help to unwind. However, too much time spent with a smartphone or laptop during a break can also be disturbing – not only for the user himself, but also for the person sitting next to him at the table.

Health problems such as tension in the neck and shoulders already occur when using a mobile phone for minimum 20 minutes. However, a general prohibition on the use of electronic media in the break room does not make much sense, as the relaxation or stress factor of smartphones or laptops is completely subjective. Alternatively, different quiet zones can be set up in the room. In one area, the use is accepted and there are special sockets where devices can be charged. The other area is free of mobile phones.

The more satisfied the employee, the more loyal he or she will be

A good leader recognises the needs of employees and provides an appealing environment for breaks. An employee who feels comfortable identifies himself with his company. This loyalty in turn benefits the employer, who appears attractive to new employees and potential customers. In any case, a good atmosphere during breaks is a win-win situation for both sides.

The post "Setting up an office break room – what to consider" written by:

Sophie Voigtländer

Expertin für Bürogestaltung und Ergonomie

Sophie joined deskonia at the beginning of 2021. Since then, she is mainly responsible for translating all kinds of texts into English.

She studied International Communication and Translation.

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