The way we work has changed dramatically in the last five years with the word hybrid and the term WFH now common parlance. Likewise, the office breakout space is no longer a bonus but is expected to be a key feature of any modern office environment.
What is an office breakout area? Put simply, it’s a space within or very close to an office, that has no particular purpose, where people can gather to socialise, relax or brainstorm. It doesn’t look like the rest of the office space with the traditional desk/chair arrangement. Instead, it should feel comfortable, restful, and designed in a way that encourages relaxation.
It might be close to or within an area where refreshments are available providing a natural place to take a tea or coffee break.
(below) Our Marble Arch breakout area provides relaxed and comfortable surroundings
What are breakout spaces used for?
In the world of modern work where we’re expected to be agile, the breakout area has no end of uses. Perhaps a team meeting has ended and a handful of people want to discuss it further. Rather than gather around a desk and cause a disturbance to others, they can congregate in the office breakout area. It means they don’t have to go through the rigmarole of booking a meeting room.
It’s also an area that workers can retreat to if they need a break from the office, somewhere they can check messages, unwind for a few moments or chat with a colleague over a beverage for 10 minutes.
A well-designed breakout space can boost creativity and productivity as well as reduce stress. Everyone needs time out from the office environment every once in a while and a breakout area gives people a chance to take a breather and that’s when many of the best ideas come to fruition.
It is also an area where people can spend time away from office noises – ringing phones, rumbling printers, raised voices, etc. One of the biggest complaints that workers have about open-plan offices is the noise.
Breakout areas can be used for a variety of purposes and are a must for any dynamic workforce that prefers to operate in an unstructured way. We’ve moved away from the days when the boss or head of department had to see people sitting at their desks from 9 to 5. The emphasis is on working well and the modern worker is trusted to do that out of sight if they have to.
It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle is not good for our health and an office breakout space encourages people to move about and take a break.
A really great office breakout space is also a good advert to any potential employees. It shows people that you are a business dedicated to creating positive spaces and one that values its employees.
How long do people spend in breakout areas?
It’s unlikely that people will stay in a breakout room for hours on end. They are much more likely to use it for a short period of time, probably no more than half an hour. Throughout the course of the day, you can expect an office breakout space to be used by several different groups of people and some individuals. If it is designed well, it will be utilised well. If it’s uncomfortable, poky, or too far away from the main office, it could turn into a dead space.
How to design an effective breakout space
When including an office breakout space in the work environment, make it a priority and not an afterthought as it needs to work on many different levels.
It should be filled with natural light as studies show that those who benefit from natural light during the working day, are more productive and experience better moods. A 2021 study concluded that natural daylight indoors helped people to sleep better and improves mental health.
The breakout space should also be located in a position where it is easily accessible to office workers and also, as far as possible, soundproof, so that they don’t have to modulate their voice out of respect for those in the office.
Before you design your office breakout space, speak to your staff to find out what they would most like to see in a designated breakout area.
Incorporating pods brings a quirky personality to any breakout room and gives small groups the opportunity to gather in relative privacy.
(below) Our Tower Hill games room is a great place to unwind
What elements make a truly excellent breakout space?
A breakout space should have a bit of personality. It’s a place where you can have a bit of fun with the decor. It certainly shouldn’t feel overly formal or stuffy.
Consider including artwork that is restful and mood-enhancing along with some indoor plants – plants have been shown to improve mood, memory, and creativity. And don’t forget practical considerations, such as having enough sockets and a place where you can eat, drink or use a laptop.
A writable wall is a great addition to any breakout space. This means you can jot words and ideas down while brainstorming, directly onto the wall and then wipe off the markings when you’re done. It’s a great space for doodling too.
At our Tower Hill offices, we have a designated games room where staff can go to unwind and bring out their competitive side.
Furniture for an office breakout area
Office breakout furniture should be comfortable, relaxing and mood-enhancing. You might like to incorporate a table for those who wish to eat or use a laptop whilst also including an area where people can sit in a relaxed huddle. When it comes to breakout spaces there are no rules and if you have a lot of space, you can include items such as a ping-pong table.
The breakout room at our Bank property, for example, is more like a lounge than office space, with a comfy sofa for relaxing along with tasteful decor. At Farringdon, we’ve used bold colours in our furniture which contrasts nicely with the high ceilings and almost industrial feel of the space.
Our Marble Arch breakout space is comfortable, yet modern with plush chairs and sofas arranged in separate areas, giving individuals or small groups the chance to gather with some privacy. And as you would expect, our Mayfair lounge space has a luxurious feel with elegant four-seater sofas and the kind of decor you’d expect from a private club or perhaps a 5* hotel.
Utilise outdoor breakout space
Outdoor space is perfect as a breakout area. It allows staff to get some fresh air, natural daylight, and the ability to be close to nature. A 2019 study concluded that people who spend up to 120 minutes outdoors every week are more likely to feel healthy and happy and it doesn’t matter if that time is from one visit or several. Sitting outdoors is good for everybody, whatever their age or background.
We’ve seen the difference it makes first hand as we have a very well-appointed courtyard at our Farringdon offices which offers a relaxing outdoor environment for staff. As you can imagine, it’s a popular location for after-work evening gatherings in the summer months.
Imaginative breakout rooms
There are no rules when it comes to office breakout spaces and when Home Leisure Direct held their first UK office breakout space competition, the winners, SLG, included a no-shoes area in their Cheltenham headquarters called the Chilli Bean Room where staff could lounge on Fatboy beanbags and enjoy moody lighting.
SLG also incorporated an American Diner-style kitchen area into their office space along with an event area that included a video wall and a bleachers stand complete with colourful cushions.
Office breakout space dos and don’ts
When designing an office breakout space, do:
- Allow in as much natural light as possible, although make sure you have blinds or similar for large windows that get direct sunlight at certain times of the day.
- Make it different from the rest of the office
- Consider the acoustic properties of the space. Don’t create a space that requires people to keep their voices down.
- Invest in good quality, comfortable furniture
- Think about creating separate areas within the breakout space
- Fill it with plants (but make sure there is someone in charge of looking after them)
- Have fun. You can be playful. Include artwork, games, or other features that appeal to your staff demographic
- Neglect to incorporate any storage. There’s nothing worse than a cluttered breakout space
- It’s never a good idea to design your breakout space in a rush. Think carefully about the people who are going to use it and what they want from the area.
- Design something that looks like the rest of the office
- Forget the small details. Providing added extras like games, fruit or a coffee machine will make your staff feel special
- Create something that doesn’t embody the culture of your brand.
If you are looking for concierge office spaces in London with thoughtfully designed breakout rooms, contact us and we’d be delighted to chat about your requirements.
Alice has over 10 years experience within the HR sector, understanding
changing demands of employees and creating strategies to attract and retain
employees, creating a productive and positive working environment.