Whether a double espresso or a chocolate macchiato is your preference, today’s badge of ‘National Coffee Break Day’ reminds us of the value that rest and relaxation brings to our working lives.
With more and more of our time being spent looking at screens – whether it’s laptops, tablets, phones or meeting room technologies – regular screen breaks in order to refocus our eyes and recharge our brains have never been more important.
Since this advice was first shared in the 1990s, technology has boomed and devices have become mobile. But while our desk-shackles have been removed and we’re able to ‘roam’, you can bet we always have a screen of some description with us. Now we need spaces to get away and relax.
Breakout or third spaces are the terms used to describe these areas in the workplace, areas with a specific function of giving employees somewhere to get away, to break out of the normal workplace formality.
These might be dedicated rooms (think sofas, pool tables, canteen tables and chairs, and libraries – take a look at Auto Trader) or just a few well-located sofas for employees to come together informally (see Caunce O’Hara). Whichever it is, breakout zones are as much a necessary part of the fabric of the modern workplace as the technology, people and processes within them.
For a time, there was a misconception that making the work environment comfortable would lessen productivity and that breakout areas might encourage people to shirk their duties. Now, we all know this to be far from the truth. Breakout spaces create opportunity for quiet contemplation, to socialise with colleagues and to nurture the culture of an organisation. All of this is about productivity – even more so when you consider that breakout spaces often double up as informal meeting rooms and quiet spaces for phone calls and lone working.
Combine this with the advent of activity-based working (the idea of choosing the right space for the task) and breakout spaces aren’t only useful, they’re vital. The best workspaces offer different areas for different tasks and accept that not everything must be undertaken sitting on the same chair in the same place every day.
Of course, the ubiquity of technology means our devices still govern much of how we use space (whatever its purpose or design) and so it’s unlikely that screen breaks will be adhered to with any real regularity. However, by providing variety and stimulation in workplace design, complete with areas to support relaxation and downtime, you are making positive steps forward in helping employees to recharge and take stock.
As wellbeing climbs up the corporate agenda, businesses must not discount the importance of supporting employees holistically. Less formal relaxation spaces are part of this movement, because they fuel productivity, creativity, belonging and culture.
So if you’re in one of the few offices that still have few breakout or third spaces, ask yourself how you can put it right. The most hard-working and productive employees are those that have all the resources they need at their disposal, and in today’s fast paced, digital age, that must include somewhere to ‘break out’.
Sometimes we all need to sit back, relax for a moment and let our ideas percolate – much like a good coffee.
To find out more about workplace wellbeing and how to write a wellbeing agenda, download our Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice: