5 Things to consider in your Employee Break Spaces

The employee workplace experience – that is the relationship employees have with the workplace and its services - is an important part of their overall experience. And the quality of those services - including tea, coffee, refreshments - we know play a particularly important role in their overall happiness. They help employees feel valued, feel proud of their workplace as somewhere to host visitors to, and feel like the workplace is one which values their break time as well as their working time. Of course in today’s workplace break zones are increasingly integrated within collaboration spaces.

Coffee provides the natural hub for collaboration zones

Coffee provides the natural hub for collaboration zones

So here are our top 5 tips to consider when designing your employee break zone and its amenities.

1.       What’s best for your employee base?

To start we’d recommend carrying out some research with the employee base. A survey will help establish what your employee priorities might be for refreshments. Combined with any data you have on existing facilities usage, this will help decide the initial brief. Is a it a full service freshly-cooked food service, or are facilities to reheat and self-cook ideal? When combined with a strong vended or self-serve snacking selection, this option can be more useful, particularly for a more agile workforce with different work schedules.

A survey helps to involve the user base in the process, which is important part of personalising the experience for employees. More about that below.

2. Strategic Coffee?

Coffee provides a natural hub for collaboration spaces. (Providing, of course it’s a good quality fresh roast!)

It’s worth planning the location of coffee hubs too. Research by Harvard Business Review suggests an optimal user base of up to 100 per coffee hub – this is with a view to maximising ‘collisions’ or encounters and interactions between departments and individuals. It’s all part of assisting the flow of knowledge through an organisation, which happens best when people meet, in planned and unplanned groups. So yes, we do agree coffee should be strategic!

3. Making meetings work better

We worked with a client who found that fewer than 10% of meetings between their staff actually necessitated private space. Armed with this knowledge this client opened up a range of ‘collaboration spaces’ of differing sizes, in zones around their open plan office. Zones for one-two meetings sit beside larger break out spaces designed for group meetings. This relieves pressure on closed meeting spaces and allows spaces to be used more efficiently - including the main lunch time canteen space.

4. Personalise it to connect

Like many aspects of human experience, the employee workplace experience is improved by personalising it. We’ve found that by personalising break spaces and refresh hubs, for instance in name (‘The Oliver H café’), and design, helps to connect it instantly with employees. It’s not just another impersonal branch, it’s their café.

5. Think with the employee experience always in mind

 Design thinking refers to the process where design is dedicated to the users experience in mind at all times. We take this approach to installations. Little details like naming break spaces, including brand visuals, celebrating teams, business mission and values build a sense of ownership. Taking inspiration from the best in coffee shop design, from around the world will build a feeling of a community in a break zone – and add inspiration to break out meetings.


The experience of the workplace itself has been directly connected with employee engagement. It makes sense. A well-designed workplace which feels personal says to employees ‘we value you’. And nothing says that louder than a great quality coffee, and refreshment space, well positioned and designed with employees in mind.

Talk to us about your coffee, tea and refreshment strategy – we’d love to share more of what we’ve learned.