An employee breakroom is where your team comes to relax, socialise or eat between shifts.
By making your staff recreation room more inviting, your team is more likely to form long-lasting and meaningful connections.
These workplace friendships make your employees more satisfied at work and engaged with their roles.
In this article, you’ll learn common ways of designing your employee breakroom and simple games you can play to supplement your team-building efforts.
What should be in an employee breakroom?
When you start designing your employee breakroom, you should always seek input from your employees.
For example, they might want it to be a relaxing environment where they can unwind and reset. Or, they might be looking for more opportunities to play games with their colleagues and build relationships.
And if your office is big enough, they might like a combination of those things—who knows?
Your job is to organise your staff breakroom so that it’s appealing and meets your employees’ needs, and the best way to do that is to ask them what they want.
Here are some features that are commonly found in an employee breakroom.
1. Comfortable seating
Drab, sterile staff rooms aren’t inviting.
A great way to make your breakroom more appealing is to furnish it with comfortable seating. So when you’re designing your interior, consider items such as:
- Large couches
- Chaise longues
- Reading chairs
Your employees should be springing out of their spine-crushing office chairs and into an utopia of luxurious furnishings.
2. A fully-equipped kitchen area
Coffee and lunch breaks present a vital opportunity for your employees to get to know one another.
With some investment, your kitchen can become a buzzing nucleus of social interaction. Here, your employees will cross paths as they venture for that much-needed cup of coffee or bite to eat.
These chance encounters help your team form connections which improve team bonding, boost the company culture and prevent your team from developing a silo mentality.
Without a communal kitchen, your team will go their separate ways in search of an alternative lunchtime hangout.
That’s a BIG missed opportunity.
So, it’s time to make your on-site kitchen the place to be.
3. An office library
Some employees want to unwind during their break. These people aren’t looking to play silly games or drum up a conversation with Sarah from HR.
Nope—they want nothing more than to chill out with their nose inside their favourite book.
Including a bookshelf or library corner in your breakroom allows these employees to temporarily escape the buzz of the office and reset for the day ahead.
For employees struggling with stress, office libraries can be a life-changing addition to their breakroom. One study showed reading books to be just as effective as yoga at reducing stress.
So, buy a bookshelf and stock it with various genres, from growth and self-development books to crime stories and sci-fi novels.
4. Exercise/workout equipment
It’s no secret that a sedentary office lifestyle is bad for your body.
Sitting down for long periods, staring at a computer screen and eating sugary and salty foods wreaks havoc on our health and results in metabolic health problems.
But getting your recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day can be a real challenge.
Fortunately, you can help your employees live a healthier lifestyle by providing workout equipment in the breakroom.
It’s easy to do. Simply dedicate a corner of the room to fitness, add some rubber floor tiles to the floor and install gym equipment like:
- Exercise bikes
- Pull-up bars
- Yoga mats
As well as improving employee well-being, reducing stress and boosting company culture, providing your team with the tools to improve their health also serves as a fantastic workplace perk that can help you attract top-tier talent.
5. Fun games and activities
The breakroom is the perfect place for your team to build stronger relationships. Here, your employees can get to know each other outside of the office.
Strong interpersonal connections are a vital part of a cohesive team.
If you want your breakroom to start functioning as a social hub, you should include fun games and activities in your design.
Because today, staff rooms are about more than grabbing another cup of tea and rearranging the fridge magnets.
Modern breakrooms offer a myriad of ways for teams to interact such as board games, pool tables, jigsaw puzzles, mini basketball hoops etc.
When choosing your games, consider asking your employees what they might like to do most. There’s no point investing in an expensive air hockey table if it’s just going to sit in the corner gathering dust. Also, floor space is at a premium in small offices, so you don’t want to waste it on things people won’t use.
6. A quiet zone or nap area
A nap area isn’t only for those who enjoyed a few too many drinks the previous evening. Some clear-headed employees want nothing more than to unwind on a comfy chair and listen to their favourite podcast.
Giving your employees somewhere to rest and recuperate will help them return to work with a newfound sense of enthusiasm and engagement.
Here are some things you might want to consider including in your quiet zone/nap area:
- Low-level mood lighting
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Eye masks
- Comfortable seating or beds
- Massage chair
- Aromatherapy diffuser
After spending a few moments in this rejuvenating space, your employees can return to work feeling calm, refreshed and in control.
What are the best games and activities for the breakroom?
Once you’ve set up your breakroom, you can make the most of the space with fun team-building games and activities.
Breakrooms function as an escape from work, so the games/activities usually focus on having fun, socialising and team bonding rather than skill development.
Here are 21 of our favourite breakroom activity ideas.
1. Serve barista-style coffee
This is a simple activity that serves as a fun weekly milestone. Simply ask a local barista to serve espresso-based coffees at your breakroom once per week.
Most mobile baristas will have their own equipment, but you should check with them before booking.
Because this is a once-per-week activity, it creates a buzz in the office and acts as a meeting point for your employees. While your employees sip on their caramel frappuccinos, they can mingle with their colleagues and get to know one another.
2. Play board games and puzzles
Board games and puzzles are effective icebreakers and can be catalysts for new relationships.
Two employees who find themselves in the breakroom together might be inclined to avoid each other, but fun, simple games can encourage interaction.
Simply stock an area of your breakroom with a variety of board games that don’t take too much space or require lots of players.
3. Set up a bulletin board
Your breakroom isn’t complete without a community bulletin board.
Bulletin boards look great and function as an interactive focal point. Here, employees can share their thoughts, feelings and opinions on given subjects asynchronously.
Try one of the following prompts to get the ball rolling:
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
- Funny baby photo contest
- What are your goals this week?
- Draw a picture of your spirit animal
Depending on the question, your employees can respond to the prompts by pinning their photos or written answers to the board.
4. Coffee of the week
If you can’t find a local barista to come to your office, this is a great alternative. Simply offer a unique coffee blend in your breakroom each weak and provide a form where employees can vote for their favourite.
If you want to take it one step further, you can interact with the local community by offering coffees from local coffee roasters. You might consider asking them to give a small coffee workshop?
5. Question of the week
Looking for a quick and easy way for your employees to get to know one another? Question of the week is perfect.
Every week, write a question on a sticky note and stick it to the wall, fridge or bulletin board (if you have one). The questions should be open-ended to gain insight into your employee’s interests and aspirations.
Leave a stack of sticky notes and a pen next to the question for your team to respond. If you need some help coming up with a question to ask, check out our massive list of icebreaker questions.
6. “This or that” questions
Asking “this or that” questions works in a similar way to Question of The Week, only it’s much faster. This version is likely to get more responses because employees only need to write their initials rather than a full answer.
“This or that” questions require your employees to make a difficult decision based on two opposing scenarios. For example, would you rather… get stood up or bump into your ex?
Write a question on a piece of paper and divide the possible answers into two columns. Then, your employees can write their initials in one of the columns to indicate their answers. “This or that” questions are a great way of sparking inconsequential debates between your employees.
Check out our list of 291 “this or that” questions for more inspiration.
7. Collaborative puzzles
Unlike board games, puzzles can be completed over an extended period. This makes them a great ongoing game for the breakroom.
Simply choose a puzzle, word search or crossword for your team to complete together. To encourage a team effort, you can restrict your employees to three answers per visit.
8. Doodle club
Drawing gets your employees in touch with their creative side in a relaxed, non-judgemental environment.
To play Doodle club, simply hang a whiteboard or set up a flip chart in the breakroom for your team to draw on. You can encourage employees to get involved by providing prompts such as:
- Draw your mood right now
- Draw your favourite animal
- Draw where you see yourself in three years
- Draw a cherished memory
- Draw your favourite cartoon character
Consider adding the best drawings to your bulletin board!
9. The Pep-talk exchange
We all have days when we could do with a little extra motivation. The Pep-talk exchange enables employees to give and take small words of encouragement.
Here’s how to do it:
- Hang up a notice board or place a box in the breakroom
- Leave a stack of paper and a pen nearby
- Ask your employees to write down words of kindness or motivational quotes then hang them up or drop them in the box
- They can write as many messages as they like
- They can take as many messages as they like back to their desk
Bonus tip: Kick-start the process by writing some messages of your own.
10. Photo wall
Your photo wall is like a shared family album that your employees can add to whenever they like. Simply hang a cork board in your breakroom and use it to display photos of your team.
You can hang group photos that were taken at events like a recent team-building retreat, or you can ask employees to bring in photos of themselves from home. Provide weekly prompts to encourage more contributions such as “an old school photo” or “a photo of your proudest moment.”
When employees share moments from their personal lives, it helps them form deeper connections and build trust.
11. Breakroom pen pals
Receiving handwritten letters is one of life’s few simple pleasures.
With Breakroom pen pals, you can start exchanging handwritten letters with your colleagues.
To play Breakroom pen pals, assign each member of your team a pen pal for whom they will write a letter once per month (or more frequently, if you wish).
Hang up a pigeonhole storage box in your break room and assign each employee a hole. Every month, your employees will write a handwritten letter and drop it in their pen pal’s pigeonhole to be later collected.
This is a fantastic way to build team harmony and boost your company culture.
12. Breakroom fundraiser
A breakroom fundraiser teaches your team the power of crowdsourcing and encourages them to pull together as a team. It also gives them the power to make unique changes to their breakroom.
You can start by setting up a safe and secure deposit box in which employees can add their donations (as the employer, it sends a positive message if you kick-start the donations yourself—don’t be too stingy!).
Once your team has amassed a sizeable sum, they can start to vote on upgrades they’d like to see in the breakroom/office. These progressive upgrades show that you’re constantly seeking to improve the employee’s experience at work.
13. Video game tournament
If you have a television and games console in your breakroom, organising a video game tournament is a no-brainer.
Start by choosing a game to play. Sports games such as FIFA, Madden, UFC and WWE are obvious choices but don’t forget classic games like Tetris or arcade-style fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Tekken.
You could set up a simple leaderboard for games where players compete for the ‘highest score’, or go a step further and organise a full group-stage tournament.
14. Team lunches
Mealtimes are a great opportunity for your employees to spend quality time together. Sadly, managers often stagger lunch breaks to keep the corporate gears turning.
By organising recurring team lunches, you’re actively marking a spot on everyone's agenda that’s dedicated to team bonding.
Your team can sit together and eat the lunch they’ve brought in themselves, or you can take turns delegating a cook to prepare a meal for the team.
15. Cleaner of the month
Dirty breakrooms can be a point of contention for employees. If somebody feels like their constantly cleaning up after other people’s mess they might start to resent their colleagues.
By making cleaning a rewarded activity, you can inspire even the messiest of employees to muck in with kitchen upkeep. Failing that, at least those who clean most often will feel some appreciation for their efforts.
To prepare for Cleaner of the Month, simply write a cleaning schedule with a list of tasks and the frequency at which they should be completed. Employees can then sign under each task once it has been done.
Assign each task a number of points as some are more work than others. The employee(s) with the most points at the end of the month is awarded a prize.
16. Personal user manuals
Looking for a quick way to integrate new hires? Try Personal user manuals.
A personal user manual is like a guidebook for how each employee likes to work. They’re simple to set up and make a nice feature for your breakroom wall.
Start by taking a photo of each of your employees and then stick the photos to the wall. Next, ask each employee to write a short user manual for themselves that will be displayed under their photo. The best user manuals are concise.
Some things to consider including in your user manual include:
- Your stress indicator (how people can know when you need help)
- The department in which you work
- The things you like/dislike most about your job
- How you like to be contacted (phone, email, text, etc.)
- The time of day when you’re most productive
- A summary of your hobbies outside of work
- Your favourite food and/or any allergies you might have
Personal user manuals summarise your employees’ preferences in the office.
17. Bring-your-favourite-snack-to-work day
Team bonding is better with chocolate.
A bring-your-favourite-snack-to-work day is where employees take turns stocking the breakroom snack cupboard with their favourite guilty pleasure.
To play, allocate a day of the week when a chosen employee needs to bring in their favourite snack. They should bring roughly enough so that everybody can try some. The next week, it’s the turn of another employee to bring in their favourite snack.
This game gets especially interesting when you have a diverse team of people from various cultures and backgrounds because your employees will get the chance to try food they may never have heard of before.
These culinary moments spark conversations that can lead to lasting friendships.
18. The “Healthy together” challenge
A “Healthy together” challenge rallies your team toward a shared fitness goal and promotes wellbeing in the workplace.
They’re really simple to set up, all you need to do is decide on the type of challenge you’re going to do.
Here are some examples:
- Healthy-eating challenge (e.g. swap your standard lunch for a healthy salad)
- Daily exercises (50 sit-ups per day)
- Do 15 minutes of stretching per day
Once you’ve decided on a challenge, create a calendar upon which your employees can sign their names each time they complete the challenge.
19. DIY Photo booth
Taking group photos is a great way for your employees to have fun together during their break.
To set up your DIY photo booth, find a space in the corner of your breakroom. Place a bench for your employees to sit on and hang up a backdrop of your choice.
Then purchase an Instax camera or an instant camera from a different manufacturer and place it nearby for your employees to use.
Your employees will have great fun taking silly pictures of themselves and displaying them up on the fridge or bulletin board.
20. Breakroom dates
If your breakroom is small, games that take a lot of space aren’t practical. You need a simple idea that encourages meaningful interactions.
That’s where Breakroom dates come in.
Breakroom Dates are simple, 1:1 meetings that take place in the staff room. The employees typically spend their breaks with the same people day in, day out, whereas these scheduled meetups get your employees interacting with colleagues whom they wouldn’t usually spend time with.
Simply assign each employee a new breakroom buddy each month with whom they will meet every week. They can play games, take photos or just chat—it’s totally up to them!
21. Fridge magnets
Decorate your fridge with magnets and bring a little extra colour and personality into your breakroom!
The idea of this game is simple, simply purchase a set of letter magnets and stick them to the fridge. Employees can then rearrange the letter however they like, or you can guide the process by offering a prompt.
- Write your favourite quote
- Which colleague are you thankful for today?
- Ask your team to vote on a random question
If you don’t want to use letter magnets, you can use different magnets to customise your fridge. For example, you might challenge your team to find the “silliest” magnet.
Combine team bonding and team building with a company offsite retreat
Employee breakrooms are great places for your team to come together and form relationships at the office. But while breakroom games are effective for socialising, they don’t impact other essential areas such as public speaking skills, creativity, resolving conflict, etc.
The best way to extract the benefits of both team building and team bonding is by taking your team on a company offsite retreat. Here, your employees can spend quality time with each other away from the office while developing important skills.
If you want to learn more about how Surf Office can help you plan your next team-building retreat, don’t hesitate to reach out.