Five office design hacks that make it simple to take five

Carving out time to recharge and rejuvenate throughout the working day is an important way to stay productive. According to Robert C. Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, taking regular breaks boosts focus, enhances creative thinking, and ultimately allows us to get more done.

But historically, an alarming 20% of workers worry that their bosses won’t think they’re productive if they’re taking a lunch break. And, if they’re not taking proper time out, they might find themselves more stressed, less productive and, ultimately, facing burn out.

One way to encourage your colleagues to take breaks – as well as reiterating the importance of taking a moment to pause and look after their wellbeing – is to make sure you’ve got a set up that allows them to relax. The effort you put into designing a break area says a lot about how much you care about your employees and overlooking it can send the wrong message.

Here are five design hacks that make it simple to encourage your team to take five.

  1. Make space away from the desk

It sounds simple, but it can be harder than it sounds. Desk-top lunches are commonplace in offices of all shapes and sizes, as people multi-task and grab a sandwich while doing something else they haven’t been able to get to yet that day.

But, put simply, this is a bad habit – and it needs to be broken. While eating ‘al-desco’ might appear productive, it’s actually the opposite.

Providing a space – of any sort – that gives people a chance to step away from their screen, stretch their legs, grab a bite to eat, and chat to other colleagues is key to making sure they get a chance to pause, and come back to their work with fresh eyes and a clearer head.

Ideally, this would be a different room altogether but, if you’re pressed for space, zoning an area as a break space, with relaxed seating, or interesting objects and art, can help encourage people away from their screens, and take five minutes to unwind.

  1. Think about posture

The set up that’ll work best will depend on the size of your office and team, as well as who comes to lunch, and when.

When thinking about seating, give people as many options to choose from as you can. Sofas, comfy armchairs, or even low seating like beanbags, can be great for those who’d like to physically relax on their lunch break; while high tables and bar stools work nicely for people looking to grab an impromptu quick coffee with a colleague, perhaps while en route somewhere else.

If you’ve got the space, big tables with long benches are a great way to facilitate a shared break space. They’re good for squeezing extra people onto if others arrive, and naturally encourage conversation and chatter – which could just lead to that all important ‘water cooler’ conversation.

  1. Banish the strip lights

Lighting is one of the key environmental elements that impacts both mood and productivity. Think about what atmosphere you’d like to create for your break space, and what type of lighting might help you achieve that.

Ceilings that are lit with downfacing or strip lights aren’t overly helpful – the overheads can be harsh and exposing, which isn’t ideal for a relaxing environment. Instead of bright white lighting, consider softer tones, or using lamps – a mixture of both desktop and floor – to vary the lighting and create a pleasant glow. Lighting can also be a design feature, and neon signs displaying logos or slogans can be a fun and modern way to put a brand stamp on your space.

Natural light is always best, so try to make sure your break space is somewhere that gets flooded with it as much as possible. Windows can really change a space – letting in both light, and providing a natural distraction for the eye, which helps after lots of time spent looking at screens.

  1. Bring elements of home into the workspace

Our homes are, more often than not, set up in a way that helps us relax and recharge. Using some of the elements that we’ve – albeit often subconsciously – curated in our home lives, and bringing them into the workspace, can be a simple way to create an area that feels comfortable and relaxing.

Think about the role of things like textures and patterns. Soft furnishings, patterned rugs, textured cushions, or even eye-catching wall art, can all help to make a space feel homely, and in contrast to the more clinical office environment that we’re perhaps used to.

A space filled with interesting objects that add a personal touch and tell your team something about you or your business, serves a dual purpose of both providing a handy distraction from the day job, and building on a sense of belonging.

  1. Get back to nature

Finally, one of the best ways to take a break and regain some clarity, perspective, and focus, is to get back to nature. There’s a science behind it, known as biophilia – which is described as the ‘innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living beings’.

That connection can take many forms - whether that’s going outside for a brisk walk and some fresh air, making the most of an interesting view by placing some comfy seating by a big window, or even just making sure there’s plenty of greenery in the break room itself. You could even dot some plants around the surfaces and shelves, climbing the walls, or hanging from furniture.

Connecting with nature in the smallest of ways can work wonders for our mood, reduce stress, and can all help improve overall concentration and productivity by up to 15%. Combine those benefits with the air-purifying benefits that filling a space with green friends can bring, and you’ve got some strong reasons to bring the outdoors into your break space.

By bearing these five factors in mind when designing a space for your colleagues to enjoy, you’ll help encourage them to take proper breaks throughout the day. Whether you’ve planned a communal lunch break, or just taking five minutes for a quick coffee and a snack, the chance to recoup and rejuvenate, in a space set up to do so, can work wonders for your team’s productivity and wellbeing.