Depending on the length of their working day, employees are entitled to some time to rest and have lunch. While most workplaces provide a break room for this purpose, many don’t take advantage of the space by using it to improve company culture and promote learning. The truth is that how you decorate and use your break room can have a significant impact on staff morale and productivity. Here are five ways to make the most of your break room.

1. Encourage Socializing

To improve the atmosphere and company culture in general, a break room should enable the people using it to easily get to know each other and, consequently, work better as a team. An astonishing 66% of millennials — the largest group in the workforce — say they struggle to make friends at work.

Introduce games such as foosball, dominoes, cards or even computer games, depending on your space and budget. Encourage staff to sit together by providing tables and chairs in one collective space rather than separated by walls or kitchen equipment. A break room arranged in this way will help develop a culture of “idea-swapping,” encouraging staff to learn from each other.

2. Supply Food and Drinks

Many employees leave the premises during lunch to go out to buy food. In doing so, they miss the opportunity to socialize and get to know their colleagues. Consider providing employees with access to snacks and cold drinks in the break room. Lots of businesses offer a fruit basket; for something more substantial, you could introduce a “micro-market” or vending machine.

Harvard University has reported that snacks like nuts and berries and drinks like tea and coffee are linked to “better brainpower,” so if you can provide them in your break room, you can improve productivity among team members.

3. Actively Promote Health and Wellness

Even if you can’t provide healthy snacks in your break room, there are other ways to promote healthy lifestyles among your staff. Make it easy for employees to learn about health and well-being by using a notice board to bring awareness to wellness initiatives. Physical exercise makes the brain work better, enabling people to hone ideas, improve their concentration and develop a thirst for knowledge.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 1 One in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. It’s never been more important to promote wellness, whether by offering community activities such as walks and meditation classes or by publicizing phone numbers to call for employees who need assistance. Helping employees maintain a healthy lifestyle can enhance their creativity, improve their memory and support their mental wellness.

4. Create a Comfortable Space

It’s estimated that between 50 and 90% of people who work on a computer suffer from poor eye health in some way. Encourage your staff to take time away from their screens by putting plants, team photos, stylish furnishings and even personalized mugs in your break room. These elements will help your staff feel like valued members of a tight-knit team rather than disconnected from their colleagues and, by extension, the company. A great way to achieve this goal is to ask your employees what they want to see in their break room. When employees return from the break room well rested, they will be more receptive and hungry to learn on the job.

5. Advertise Learning Opportunities

Use the break room notice board to advertise upcoming courses and training. Even external opportunities such as local language courses can be attractive to employees, especially if a group wants to attend together. Simply advertising training can help develop a learning culture , where employees speak up if they feel that training might benefit them in their role.

Many companies use “lunch and learn” programs to provide training during lunch breaks. Because these breaks are employees’ personal time, make sure to provide an incentive to attend, perhaps by supplying lunch and ensuring that the content is interesting and applicable to employees’ professional and personal lives. A session on health and wellness or life skills such as budgeting may engage more learners.

While a break room is intended to give staff a rest, most employees do end up discussing their work there at some point — just less formally. While there should be no pressure to do so, a comfortable break room can stimulate useful conversation and the exchange of ideas, which can be invaluable when it comes to employee productivity and performance.

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