Workplace Breaks Explained: 8 Ways to Make More of Your Breaks

The coffee/tea break is an enduring staple of office life the world over. Breaking up the working day with a natter in the office kitchen, a chinwag in the breakout space, or a walk to the local shop to buy a coffee is a habit we all fall into. But changing outlooks on work, and the transformative impact of coronavirus, have changed our work routines and affected where and when we work. So, how can the workplace break evolve?

Flexible working has seen employees spending less time tied to the office, and more time using a hybrid mix of office and home-based working. 43% of Gen Y, 33% of Millennials and 31% of Gen X workers say they’d prefer a hybrid style of working1, and this evolution is driving a change in our well-established office coffee break routine.

Keep reading to find out how to get back into the habit of taking regular breaks, socialising with colleagues.

We’ve highlighted 8 ways to make more of your workplace breaks!

1. Make workplace breaks less structured and formalised

The changing work patterns we’re now seeing in many companies2 mean the traditional office coffee break needs a rethink. Rather than having breaks at set times, and in set locations, it can be beneficial to bring some fluidity to your workplace breaks – and to meet all the social distancing and safety rules that the current situation demands.

Creating multi-purpose workspaces and hybrid breakout areas in the office makes it easier to combine both work and leisure in the one space. Comfortable seating, cafe-style booths and stand-up tables can all be used to create somewhere that people can work, chat, take a break and socialise – all socially distant of course!

2. Exploring sensory renewal during office coffee breaks

Traditionally, we’ve seen workplace breaks as a way to recharge our batteries, rest our eyes after extended screen time, or simply take a breather to get our energy levels up. While these kinds of functional re-energising breaks are important, increasingly the research shows that short ‘brain breaks’ are needed that include sensory renewal and enjoyment too3

Reinvigorating your choice of refreshments is one way to boost this sensory element. Try out distinct flavour offerings, vivid taste descriptors and using language/visuals that emphasise the fun elements and pleasurable benefits of short micro breaks. Offering a choice of ‘pick and mix’ snacks helps add to the fun of choosing your own mix of breaktime energy boost – as long as you can maintain the requisite Covid health & safety standards.

3. Offer both healthy and indulgent snack options

Our regular workplace breaks are an opportunity for maintain mental support and physical wellbeing. 

Making healthy choices is obviously a prime concern, but you may choose to offer your team a combination of healthy and indulgent snacks that cater both to give your employees choice. Inspirational quotes and references on packaging, decor and around the building also serve to boost mental/social wellness and add to the moment.

4. Make good use of optimised food and drink dispensers

Using food or drink dispensers in the workplace is challenging at present, with the ever-present need for regular sanitisation of the units. However, smart and innovative use of technology can come to your aid.

Optimised food dispensers – for example, the emerging trend for ‘snack robots’4 – could boost productivity, while also providing workers with nutritional information about their snack choices. This empowers people to understand both the health and productivity implications of their nutritional choices and to take responsibility for their health.

5. Reflect the diversity of your workforce

Your people are not all the same. We all have our own personal, cultural and religious preferences when it comes to workplace break time and the food and drink we consume.

An increasingly diversified workforce demands a rich range of unique offerings for, including for healthy and alternative diets. Bear in mind cultural norms – not everyone drinks alcohol, so ‘after work beers’ isn’t a good fit for everyone – and think about the set-up of your breakout spaces. Some employees may need space for religious practices, and others may want an office gym to keep them fit. Reflect the diverse tastes in the team and make sure people feel that they belong.

6. Bring out the social side of break time

In the modern workplace, breaks are becoming fun, social and collective experiences, especially in a time where employees are increasingly working remotely and on flexible hours. 

Having communal food and drink activities in comfortable eating environments can help to boost the team’s social experiences and add an element of fun – in line, of course, with the latest social-distancing guidelines. Being part of a ‘community’ is one of the main plus points of office life, so it’s important to promote the social side of break times and communicate this sense of community. And don’t forget to include your homeworkers and remote-working colleagues too – video calls make it easy to include everyone in the fun.

7. Do something unusual and break out of the breaktime cycle

Breaktimes can easily become rigid and routine, with the same people sitting in the same location every day. To stop office coffee breaks becoming monotonous, it’s a good idea to mix things up occasionally and try some unique break experiences. 

Take the team to the local park, to a coffee shop with outside space, or to a local museum or art gallery. Being in a new environment, with new sensory inputs, will help to spark conversations and can shake you out of your break-time rut. A unique breaktime experience can boost socialisation within the team and will encourage better interpersonal and working relationships – which is great for productivity5.

8. Demonstrate your company values

Workers, especially the younger generation, are increasingly aware of the environmental and sustainability impacts of their food and drink choices6. So, your company needs to reflect these diverse values and aim to offer sustainable choices when it comes to suppliers.

Choose food and drink suppliers that can demonstrate their sustainability credentials and who use packaging that can be recycled or repurposed. And be transparent about which suppliers you use too. Include slogans and information on environmental choices in your break spaces and allow employees to experience your company values, creating a breaktime ethos that match the values of your employees.


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  1. Global Workforce Survey 2020, Salesforce
  2. Half of workers expect to work more flexibly after lockdown, People Management
  3. The tiny breaks that ease your body and reboot your brain, BBC Worklife
  4. This little PepsiCo snack robot is a vending machine on wheels, CNET
  5. Reasons Social Connections Can Enhance Your Employee Wellness Program, Forbes
  6. Younger consumers more likely to pay higher prices for organic food and drink: Mintel, FoodNavigator