Designing an Effective Outdoor Employee Break Room

Designing an Effective Outdoor Employee Break Room

Designing an Effective Outdoor Employee Break Room


When it comes to ensuring the long-term success of your business, one of the best investments you can make is providing a better atmosphere for employees. To put it simply, happy employees are valuable and more likely to perform their job better. The Harvard Business Review performed an analysis of various studies and found that happy employees were 3x as creative, 31% more productive, and had 37% higher sales.

There are many ways you can improve the wellbeing of your employees, but one that provides significant benefit is a comfortable and welcoming workplace environment. Break rooms, for example, are meant to be a place of relief and short gathering, however the traditional design of a break room - a refrigerator, coffee pot and perhaps a table and chairs - never really encouraged a true mental break, which is something we can all use. Over the past several years, however, we’ve seen a shift in this trend. Employers have been exploring creativity, in this regard, and working to create more hospitable places for employees to find a reprieve from office stressors as well as inspiration and newfound energy.

(Outdoor Break Area)

Outdoor break areas have been a big part of this trend and continue to grow in popularity. Outdoor break rooms for employees offer a lot of advantages without necessarily requiring extensive renovations.

Improving employee productivity by expanding green space

(303 Second Street Park, by Gensler, photo by Dennis Mayer Photography)

Numerous authorities on physical and mental health have found through studies that people greatly benefit from spending more time outdoors. In research compiled by the US Forest Service, it has been found that people who walk for just 15 to 30 minutes a day significantly reduced their risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other serious physical illness.

Other research in studies based in Scandinavia and the Netherlands found a strong correlation between reduced depression and decreased risk of mental illness in those that spend time in nature. Essentially, those that regularly spend time outdoors are happier, better able to handle stress and work demands, and have a more positive mindset.

You can offer these same benefits to your employees by adding more accessible green space. Green space is a term used to describe a vegetated area located in urban surroundings. Expanding green space around your building enhances the aesthetics, but creating a designated outdoor area for breaks takes it a step further.

Building an outdoor break room for your employees

(YETI Corporate Office, by TBG Partners, photo by Fine Focus Photography)

There is no right or wrong way to design an outdoor break room. The ideal design will be one that works with the existing surroundings and is set-up in a manner that invites employees to try it out. There are three elements to keep in mind when building your space - location, furnishings, and greenery.

The location of the outdoor break room will ideally be very close to the building and easily accessible, but also somewhat private. For example, if your office building is in an area that gets a lot of foot traffic, a more secluded outdoor break area will seem more relaxing to employees than one out front of the building that passersby might assume is a spot for customers.

When choosing your location you also want to maximize natural sunlight and offer a place that has a pleasant view. Getting some sun while on a break is energizing for employees and contributes to a positive state of mind. A break area having a nice view is also more enjoyable to relax.

(ProSiebenSat.1 Media Group's Rooftop Deck, photo by Salih Usta)

If you don't have much space to sacrifice on ground level you can instead locate the area on the rooftop of the building. This is ideal for sunlight and attractive views, as mentioned above, and can easily be enhanced with container plants and flower beds.

The furnishings you choose will also make a big impact. You want to choose furniture that is comfortable to sit in, plus a few different style options. You might have benches or chairs for simply lounging and also have small tables for employees to eat lunch at or even host a business meeting. An important aspect of the furniture to consider is what material it's made from.

(Vestre Furniture, by Vestre)

Selecting a beautiful material that's also durable and long-lasting is the best and most cost effective route. Modified wood is an excellent example of a durable real wood that also adds a great deal of charm and modern attractiveness to your space. It's tough and requires extremely little maintenance. The above featured benches are just one example of how modified wood can be used.

Plus modified wood can also be used for decking, cladding, tables, flower boxes, and more. It’s a great choice to being beauty and naturalness to every corner of your break area.

(Villa, by Hanne Holsted, photo by Kathrine Sorgard)

Last, but not least, adding greenery to the break area is the finishing touch. Ideally the location you choose will already have a planted area or lawn to build from. If not, don't worry. Container plants and flower beds can easily be built for your outdoor break room. You can have custom containers built from the same modified wood material as your decking, benches and other furniture. If your location is a fairly exposed, consider building raised beds around it where you can eventually plant hedges and shrubs as a visual barrier for more privacy.

Building an outdoor break area for employees is relatively simple yet it can yield very positive results for staff. Taking regular breaks has long since been proven to improve employee productivity, which has led business owners and managers to encourage their staff to take a break when needed. Having access to a calm, natural space outdoors is a wonderful change from the typical indoor break room idea and is much more effective.