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I want to talk about a subject today that we don’t discuss very often – the employee breakroom. Your organization might also call it the office kitchen, employee cafeteria, or a lounge. Regardless of what you name it, I think it’s fair to say that organizations don’t promote their breakroom as a benefit AND employees don’t typically say that the employee breakroom is a reason they stay with the company.

But that doesn’t mean the breakroom isn’t important. And breakroom maintenance can really be quick and easy. The good news is that a company called Boxed has a solution to help maintain your employee breakroom, but before we get into that, let’s talk about why breakrooms are important. 

Employee breakrooms provide a place for three activities: relaxing, recharging, and reconnecting. They are three different things. 

RELAX: Breakrooms are a place for employees to step away from their work. Let’s say you’re working on an intense analytical project or report. A few moments away from the computer screen would provide some clarity. Case in point, I was recently facilitating a people analytics seminar where I had to remind participants to step away from the case study we were working on because it will help them with their thought processes. Just a few moments can make a huge difference!

RECHARGE: Another situation where an employee lounge can be helpful is right after an employee has just ended a frustrating phone call and needs a minute of quiet. We’ve all been there. With the continuing conversation about employee wellness and wellbeing, giving employees a place where they can refresh is necessary

RECONNECT: Because breakrooms are casual places, they can also be a space for employees to connect. One of the things we’ve been hearing a lot lately is that while remote work is great for many things, it might not be a replacement for good old-fashioned in-person conversation. (No offense to video conferencing.) I know we often don’t think of them that way, but I’m reminded of the times – as a HR professional – when an employee might come and start a conversation with me in the breakroom. It allowed me to invite them to stop by my office. 

However, if the employee breakroom isn’t properly maintained, not only will employees be unable to relax, recharge, or reconnect, but it can become a source of employee dissatisfaction.

Breakrooms Need to Be Maintained

While organizations might not promote the office kitchen in their recruitment marketing efforts, if they aren’t well maintained, they become a source for complaints. True story: years ago, Mr. Bartender worked at a company where every afternoon they provided fresh popcorn to employees. The company had an employee who made sure the breakroom was always clean and tidy. And that employee would make popcorn every day. It was a wonderful perk. Mr. B would half-jokingly remark that employees were upset when there wasn’t any popcorn in the breakroom. I understand that’s a simplistic example, but you see my point. 

It’s amazing to see all the breakroom comments when scanning the Antiwork sub on Reddit. Clearly this is something that matters to employees. And thankfully, maintaining an employee lounge doesn’t have to be complex. Here are three ways to treat it with respect.

  1. Decide what you want to use it for. Many organizations use the breakroom to post notices, including compliance posters, which means we want employees to go there so they see this information. In addition to its usual lunchroom purpose, the breakroom can also be a place to have casual meetings.
  2. Keep it clean. No one wants to spend time in a dirty breakroom. Provide employees with basic eating utensils, paper plates, and napkins so the breakroom isn’t filled with dirty dishes, etc. Organizations can provide the cleaning supplies like soap and sponges so employees can clean up after themselves.
  3. Stock it appropriately. Please note: I’m not saying stock it lavishly. Employees like when the breakroom has snacks, and they don’t have to be outrageous. Organizations can provide drinking water, fruit juices, energy drinks, and coffee/tea. Snacks like Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Chex Mix, Cheez-Its, and Famous Amos Cookies are classics.
    The good news is that the supplies I’m talking about – cleaning supplies, utensils, beverages, and snacks can be sent directly to the organization via our friends at Boxed. Simply create a free business account. Order the supplies you want and need. Have them shipped to you. Done. 

Make the employee breakroom a clean space where an employee can grab a drink and a snack. They can take a few moments to refresh and recharge. The goal should be to do it well by keeping it simple. That’s what I like about the service and the products being offered by Boxed. They’re helping to keep employee breakroom maintenance simple and still maintain quality. 

The employee breakroom can easily become a value add without a lot of effort. It only makes sense to give it the attention it deserves.

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