By Dean Stier
From the June 2018 Issue
It’s a challenge that facility managers everywhere face—creating and maintaining a space that appeals to a wide swath of occupants and visitors. This challenge is compounded when considering the various generations of employees that work together; each with their own sensibilities and design needs.
In general, the younger the person, the more important the aesthetics of the space become. In fact, a survey conducted by the firm IPSOS on behalf of my company, National Business Furniture, found that 76% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said the design and aesthetics of an office influenced their perception of that organization. This contrasts with 55% of those between the ages of 35 and 54 and 39% of adults ages 55 and up who feel the same way.
That same study also highlighted another key finding: 70% of respondents say they wished their workplace would consider a design upgrade. One thing is true across all generations—most people want their workplace to look better than it does today.
To a facility manager, this statistic points to a daunting task—creating a space that pleases a wide range of opinions. It’s easy to slip into visions of ping pong tables, trendy furniture, and napping lounges, but the reality is that it’s not necessary to chase the latest fads and trends. In fact, there’s one area that’s often overlooked when thinking about how to upgrade a facility—the breakroom.
The breakroom is the unsung hero of most buildings. It’s the central nervous system of any office, where people get their morning coffee, warm up their lunches, and catch up with colleagues. By improving and modernizing the breakroom, it’s possible to create a space that elevates the entire facility.
When my company moved to its new location two years ago, creating a beautiful breakroom was as important, if not more important, than beautiful offices. Gone were the old, dingy tables and dark chairs. Gone were the linoleum floors and dull cabinets. The new breakroom featured brilliant white tables, chairs and stools in white with a pop of blue fabric, comfy booths with throw pillows, and even a fireplace and couches (see photo). We took a room that was purely practical and turned it into a space that was energizing.
The beauty of focusing on the breakroom is that it’s less expensive than revamping private offices, workstations, and reception areas. Here are a few tips to make the most out of a breakroom refresh.
Mix and match furniture heights. By choosing bar-height tables and stools alongside standard-height tables and chairs, the breakroom becomes more dynamic. People can choose to stand or sit, and varying heights create a relaxed atmosphere. Plus, it breaks up the room by making it visually interesting.
Add soft seating. A few booths that are plush and comfortable can turn a typical breakroom into an inviting lounge. Incorporate some throw pillows for a pop of color and a subtle touch of comfort.
Bring in new colors. Those old oak-grain laminate tables that have occupied breakrooms for decades are not terribly attractive. Instead, go with brilliant white for a modern look, or opt for warmer wood tones that recreate the casual comfort of cafés.
Great food and drink options. Don’t forget the really important stuff—desirable food and drink options. Many workplaces provide free coffee, but “free” typically ends up meaning “terrible.” Splurge for great coffee. For food options, you might opt for small markets that provide fresh food and snacks at a reasonable price. There are companies that service offices with an easy way for employees to buy food with a card or through their phone.
With a few new tables and chairs and a bit of color, a breakroom can set an inviting tone for the rest of the building. Now that’s something everyone can appreciate.
Stier is chief marketing officer for National Business Furniture, based in Milwaukee, WI. Founded in 1975, the company offers quality furniture and service to corporate offices, government facilities, and more.
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