Every business should have at least one outdoor hangout space to give employees fresh air and natural views during their limited break time. Traditional break rooms might be serviceable, but they often look the same as the rest of the workplace and don’t offer an effective change of scenery.
Here are some benefits of outdoor break areas and eight tips to help companies design the best space for employees.
Benefits of an Outdoor Break Area
The average office or warehouse worker spends most of the day inside, surrounded by artificial lights and suboptimal air quality. Although working indoors is the norm in today’s world, for most of human history, people spent most of their time outside. Humans belong in the outdoors, so business owners must provide their employees with some sort of fresh-air refuge.
Extensive research has shown that spending just 120 minutes in nature every week improves people’s health and well-being in all kinds of ways:
- Better mood and productivity
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Increased motivation
- Better immune health
- Stronger vision
- Higher sleep quality
Imagine a workforce that’s healthy, well-rested, energetic and ready to meet every day’s challenges head-on. An outdoor break area can play a huge role in making this dream a reality.
Here’s what business leaders need to include to make their outdoor hangout spaces enjoyable and successful.
1. Choose a Secluded Spot
The outdoor break area must be in a secluded spot on the property. Plan to establish it away from the building’s parking lot and main entrance. Employees will be able to relax more easily with less foot and vehicle traffic around them. Only the sounds of nature should be in earshot, if feasible.
Putting the break area farther away from the building also gives employees more physical activity. Instead of simply stepping outside, they can take a brief walk to relieve the symptoms of poor desk posture and maintain their mobility.
2. Make It Accessible
The break area has to be accessible to all employees. Ensure workers with disabilities can navigate the property and use all the amenities. Install ramps instead of steps and put railings at least 36 inches apart on each side. Use stone or nonslip deck materials to provide stable footing.
Choosing the right furniture is the most important part of accessibility. Instead of getting traditional picnic tables and benches, opt for custom tables that people in wheelchairs can use. You can consider adding a piece of poly outdoor furniture for your employee’s break area.Casual s eating arrangements like lawn and patio chairs that employees can move around will also make the break area more open to all.
3. Focus on Ambiance
Relaxing in nature isn’t just about taking in scenic views. Sound is equally important. Managers can establish an immersive ambiance around their outdoor break areas in a few simple but effective ways:
- Install a small pond or fountain to create the soothing sound of flowing water.
- Hang bird feeders around the area to attract more wildlife.
- Put wireless outdoor speakers around the site and play ambient soundscapes.
Incorporating more sounds of nature into the break area will also help drown out other noises nearby. Anything that allows people to briefly detach from their jobs and get the most out of the space is a worthwhile addition.
4. Provide Plenty of Shade
Sunlight is extremely beneficial in moderate doses but can quickly become a health hazard if employees don’t have sufficient protection. UV rays can penetrate through tree and umbrella cover and cause just as much cumulative harm, even if someone isn’t sitting in direct sunlight.
Provide plenty of deep shade in the break area with tree cover and a dense artificial structure like a pavilion. Encourage employees to wear sunscreen and hats if they plan on taking a break longer than 30 minutes. The canopy will also provide shelter if it starts to rain while workers are outside.
5. Establish a Dining Area
Most employees will likely use the outdoor hangout area on their lunch breaks, so it’s important to establish a dining area. Tables and chairs should allow for easy eating. Put bug-repellent devices around so insects don’t fly near the workers’ food. Businesses with sizable budgets can also include fancier features, such as a food prep counter and minifridge.
Additional indoor amenities are also necessary to promote a healthy diet in the workplace. Consider including a snack and beverage station near one of the exits where employees can pick up a bite to eat on their way to the break area. A nutritious meal and outdoor scenery would brighten their days and make their jobs a little easier.
6. Put Out Games and Reading Materials
A reliable overhead covering enables employees to enjoy games and reading materials during breaks. Companies can put out educational resources that are relevant to their industry. There are plenty of outdoor yard games and classic board games to choose from. These team-building activities will help workers detach from their electronics for a while, which will help them clear their heads if they work at their desks all day.
7. Incorporate Exercise Equipment
Many people don’t have time to follow a consistent exercise routine because of their busy work schedules. Businesses can support their employees’ fitness goals by incorporating workout equipment into the outdoor break area. Simple pieces like a pull-up bar, power tower and situp station are all they need to complete a quick and effective routine. Even a 10-minute workout session can boost fitness levels and improve people’s health in the long run.
8. Add a Place to Work
Although the main purpose of an outdoor break area is to help employees relax, it should still include a place to work. If it’s a beautiful summer day and some of the staff want to work outside, they should be free to do so if it doesn’t impede their performance. Designate a few tables away from the other furniture as a small work area. This will appeal to anyone who wants to step away from their desks for a few hours.
Outdoor Break Areas Benefit Everyone
Building an outdoor break area is beneficial for everyone. Employees get to enjoy better working conditions and live healthier lives, and customers have a better experience because of the staff’s improved performance. The company sees greater productivity because workers and clients are happy. Businesses with outdoor break areas will reap the rewards, regardless of the industry.