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What to look for in the perfect break out area

Posted by Marianne
March 19, 2014 in Features

Break out areas vary but, generally, they are communal spaces that can be used for impromptu meetings and for employees to take time away from their work stations.

It can be tricky to design the perfect break out area, but if the way in which the space will be used is given priority, it should be possible to start with that and work backwards to come up with the ideal combination of furniture and aesthetics.

The most common mistake when creating a break out area is to produce a vaguely thought-out, generalised idea of what such a space should be like, without thinking about what your company actually needs and how your workers are likely to make use of the zone.

The best break out areas place function over style

Although a break out area should look attractive, it is a mistake to let the eye of the designer take too much priority over the needs of employees. Instead, establishing what workers require and maintaining a clear idea of what the space will be used for should ensure that the area is one that will be frequently occupied, rather than neglected.

When looking at the perfect break out area, it should be obvious how it is intended to be used. Even if more than one activity is to be carried out in the space, there should be plenty of clues to let staff know how they can make use of the area. This will also make them feel more comfortable about establishing themselves there.

Large areas with catering facilities tend to work well and encourage workers to mix and collaborate. However, those that appear confusing, such as a kitchen mixed with a library, tend to put people off. Any furniture needs to be suitable for the activities going on in the area and, while versatility can be a positive feature, items that are too generalised might not be all that useful.

Locations can promote the use of break out areas

Having a break out area right next to work stations could lead to workers being distracted by noise. It could also see employees inhibited from using the break out zone for fear of upsetting their working colleagues. It is probably better to decide in advance whether a break out area should be a noisy or quiet space and site it accordingly.

Individual break out areas are frequently designed as small booths, but they could also be larger, quiet spaces, resembling libraries where individuals could sit in peace. Sometimes, a break out area will be a large central space that ends up being occupied infrequently by employees, perhaps because it is located too far away from their work areas and does not feel like it belongs to them. It is important that a break out area should feel like a communally owned space.

Ultimately, the perfect break out area will vary according to the business it belongs to. How well-used it is will depend on whether workers understand what they are being encouraged to use the space for, and whether its design then allows them to do so effectively.

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