Take a break and redecorate: How a breakroom impacts well-being

Whether you work in an open workroom or have a private office, everyone needs to get out of their workspace every so often. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that employees who take little breaks throughout the day are more productive because they’ve had a chance to switch their focus. Mentally changing perspective and physically moving to a new environment is necessary to reset and center your energy on what’s important.

A breakroom should be a step away from work, not just a different setting to complete another task. Providing a place to relax can help contribute to lower stress levels during the day, helping keep staff healthy and engaged. It can also be a place of gathering for staff members, building a network of community and support — all factors that support overall health and well-being.

“Break rooms provide a space and opportunity to destress, and they are a relatively small investment toward a mentally healthy workforce,” says Mabel Bongmba, MD, a physician practicing psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente Factoria Medical Center. “As care providers, we need to do this for ourselves as well! Many of my colleagues thrive by stopping by our break room for a glass of water during a brisk walk around the office, or for a quick chat and check-in with our co-workers.”

If your breakroom could use some improvements, there are some easy ways that are quick, effective, and inexpensive. Simple changes such as the color of the room, amount of clutter, and equipment available all play a key role in creating an oasis of tranquility.

  • Add some staple relaxation pieces like string lights hung around the room or exercise equipment such as a yoga mat, exercise ball, and stretch bands. A sound machine or soft music playing can contribute to the calm, and an air/aroma diffuser can be a great addition to create the ultimate oasis.
  • Have some activities available: a puzzle table, adult coloring books, napping corner, and reading nook.
  • Bring some plants into the space. Nothing says breathe like a plant creating some more oxygen. Whether you get them from a store or someone brings some from home, anything green will help freshen up the room. Remember to assign someone to water the plants.
  • Add a human touch with a wall space for a bulletin board or white board. It’s a good place to share ideas, post about fun community activities, interesting articles, inspirational quotes, healthy recipes, or group photos.
  • Nothing says makeover like some good old fashion organization. Avoid having too many items out. Put away supplies in boxes, drawers, or cabinets, and keep items on display simple. Check out craft stores and organization aides for some inspiration on the best way to store awkward items. Having less out will make the room and your mind feel cleaner.
  • A quick coat of paint can change the atmosphere of a room completely. Most paint stores have discount colors of last season’s colors, or fellow staff members might have some leftover paint from a personal project. Aim for cooler or natural colors. Blues stimulate feelings of tranquility, and lighter whites, greys, and tans are clean colors that go with anything.

At the end of the day, choose what’s best for your staff; it doesn’t have to be too fancy. Keeping things simple, clean, and organized are the most noticeable improvements. This should be a space for staff to relax, so focus on adding (or removing!) those items that best meet their needs.

Put that creative cap on, get to work, and have some fun doing it!

The staff of Sartori Elementary School in Renton created a staff serenity room.


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