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How to Improve Office Breakout Spaces

Posted on Feb 25, 2016, by Michael Eckert

It may seem counter-intuitive to encourage your employees to spend time away from their desks, but a well-designed breakout area can improve creativity, collaboration and productivity. While a breakout space can be a valuable addition to any office, a poorly designed one can become a bland and uninspiring space that doesn’t get used.

Today I’m looking at six things to consider when designing (or re-designing) your office breakout space.

Feature photo – PKWARE, Inc. break out area, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1) Furniture

The most important thing to consider when designing your breakout space is making it look and feel different from your employees’ regular workspaces.

A change of scenery can foster creativity, so different is good. You want to avoid furnishing your breakout space with desks; instead consider providing a variety of seating options and arrangements to increase the flexibility of the space, and long tables/benching to encourage people to sit together.

 

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2) Lighting

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to light a space based on the task being performed.

Some activities, such as those in break out areas, will need to be lit brightly with cooler color temperatures to help keep you alert and engaged. Others will need warmer color temperatures and lower lighting levels to help you relax and recharge.

You can also look to light various break out spaces differently, in order to accommodate different needs. You’ll be amazed at how people will self-select a space based on brightness and color temperature.

Wherever possible, you should try and get natural light into your breakout space, as studies have shown that exposure to natural light positively impacts health and wellness. If that’s not possible, white (or cooler color temperature) light is better for employee wellness than yellow (warmer color temperature) light.

3) Acoustics

In an open office, noise is the number one problem that you have to deal with. Background noise is a constant distraction, whether you’re hearing someone’s phone calls or their heavy footsteps.

Noise levels will fluctuate more in your breakout space compared with the rest of your office, due to its flexibility: it will be used by different numbers of people and for different purposes throughout the day.

Therefore, it’s important to sort out the acoustics in this space. You may want to consider partitions to separate your breakout space from the rest of the office. Equally, your choice of flooring has a surprising impact on office noise levels: cushion-backed carpet tiles are particularly effective at absorbing structure-borne noise (like foot traffic and moving furniture), which can help to create a more harmonious working environment.

4) Color

Brighten up your breakout space with clever use of color.

Whether you want to use your company’s colors or enlist color psychology to create a great working environment, your furniture, walls and flooring can all be used to brighten up a space. While you may choose artwork to brighten up your walls, a brightly colored or patterned carpet can bring additional color to a space.

Learn more: How Carpet Dye Technologies Impact Design Flexibility

5) Culture Fit

When revamping your breakout space it’s important that it is in keeping with the overall culture and environment of your company. Will the space that you’re designing fit in with the rest of your office space or will it stick out and draw unwanted attention?

For example, beanbags for seating may seem like a fun, creative idea, but can you envision your colleagues using the space every day for the next week / month / year without needing to make drastic changes? The last thing you want is to invest time, money and energy into redesigning your office breakout space, only for no-one to use it.

6) Flexibility

If you want your office breakout space to work for the long term, flexibility is key. What works for your organization now won’t necessarily suit in two or three years’ time.

But smart choices can give you more flexibility in the years to come. Having a range of seating options means you can regularly reconfigure the layout of your breakout space, and means your organization can use the space in a variety of different ways, making it a more flexible space.

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Topics: Health & Wellness

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert