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You’d be amazed how employee attitudes are shaped by a lousy break room – dirty dishes, spoiled food and thoughtless co-workers.

But you can enhance your employees’ morale and job satisfaction if they can enjoy sitting in a room relaxing over coffee, snacks and lunch.

Imagine how little time the best employees will want to use such a room. So you might want to consider encouraging a break-room etiquette environment.

Bear in mind you need to be pragmatic. Employees won’t want to clean the break room every day of the work week.

Ask employees to be empathetic with each other – how they’re using the break room and how it affects the feelings of their team members.

Rules or policies should be made clear so employees understand what’s expected. Depending on the size of your staff, display a friendly set of reminders for everyone to see.

More points to consider:

1. In-person employee questionnaires

Try asking employees for their opinions. That’s a great way to learn what your employees like and dislike, such as what they think is evenhanded and what they want from their peers.

Once you know their opinions, you can create and share break-room policies.

2. Noise

Many employees, who don’t have a private office, appreciate the opportunities for a mini vacation – having a place to go to relax and to get away from work.

Some are likely to enjoy having non-work conversations.

For example, your break room should provide a break from work where team members can enjoy lunch without interruptions – others coming to talk with them about work-related matters.

Ask employees to refrain from interrupting those on break, to save their questions in non-emergency situations or to send emails that can be checked after breaks.

So consider a noise policy. How about establishing your break room to be noise-free or as a spot for friendly conversation?

Space-permitting, consider areas for quiet time or for employees to chat.

You’d have to inform employees what’s expected.

3. Cleanliness

Many people might be concerned about cleanliness of their co-workers. Employees need to know what’s expected to clean up after themselves.

4. Specify responsibilities

Employees have to know expectations about getting rid of old food. They’ll need to understand what’s expected about cleaning the refrigerator and microwave.

It must be arranged equitably.

5. Food labels

Especially if you have a congenial staff that organizes pot luck celebrations or share food, ask employees to label their food they store in the break room for their own personal use.

Why? In congenial workplaces, some workers might anticipate the food is there for their taking.

But when it isn’t, employees are really chagrined when their lunches disappear. It’s a source of irritation.

6. Fresh coffee

Most employees like their coffee. But it’s annoying to visit the break room only to find an empty coffee pot.

Avoid employees having to waste their time brewing a new pot in lieu of fully enjoying their breaks.

Your etiquette guidelines should include a mention about refilling the coffee pot. Another option is to install a single-serve coffee maker.

From the Coach’s Corner, related articles for bosses and employees:

Make More Friends at the Office with 6 Etiquette Tips — In many companies, good etiquette is nonexistent and office co-workers fail to make friends of one another. Lack of trust and turmoil is seemingly evident everywhere. You don’t have to like everyone, but it’s best to be respectful, and assertive versus aggressive. That makes for good office relationships.

36 Tips: Develop Confidence to Win an Office Tug of War — For people lacking in self-confidence, winning an office tug of war is easier said than done. Unlike leaders, they unknowingly give away their power. One sign is whether you’re winning hearts and minds at work. For instance, in the event of disagreements, are you able to persuade others?

Why Executives Emphasize Communication Training for Employees — Among human resources training priorities, employee communication is often now more important than skills, say many executives. Two-thirds of executives responding to a survey say communication skills are most needed by certain employees.

What to Do If You’re Thinking about Dating a Co-Worker — Most executives probably cringe at the thought of romances blossoming among their office workers. There are good reasons why. But if you must start an office romance, here are tips to minimize damage to your career.

“Let your personality be your profit and not your punishment.”
-Amit Kalantri


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.