Giving your workers a space to relax, enjoy a cup of coffee or a quick lunch can really improve employee satisfaction and morale. But if your break room is full of disusting food, dirty dishes and inconsiderate co-workers, then no one will even want to spend time there.
For that reason, it’s important that you consider break room etiquette for your small business. With just a few rules and policies, you can make your break room a much nicer place for your entire team. Here are some things to consider when creating those policies.
Break Room Etiquette
Have a Noise Policy
Some people want to use the break room as a place to relax, while others might enjoy having some conversations with co-workers. For that reason, it can be a good idea to clearly outline a noise policy for the break room. You might decide that it should be a quiet space or a space for conversations. Or you could have separate areas that are for conversations and others that are for employees actually taking breaks. Whatever you decide, you just need to be sure that it’s clear to employees so that they know what to expect and how to behave.
Keep it Clean
Keeping the break room clean can be another area where you need to create some rules. Make sure your employees know that they’re expected to clean up after themselves, even if it seems obvious. Some might forget about old items in the refrigerator, for example. But if they know exactly what tasks they’re expected to do, then the break room can be a much cleaner and nicer space for everyone.
Label Food Items
It can also be a good practice to have everyone label any food items that they want to keep in the fridge or any common areas of the break room. If they don’t, people might assume that it’s something that someone brought into share. So labeling can really save you from having to deal with a lot of employee conflict.
Steer Clear of Work Talk
Your break room should be a space where team members can actually get a break from work. So make sure that people know they shouldn’t actually bring work into that space. If someone is taking a break or enjoying their lunch, others shouldn’t be coming in to ask them about work related items. So make that clear and simply ask those team members to save their questions or send it in an email so that they can check it when they get done with their break.
Keep the Coffee Fresh
Coffee is one of the main reasons a lot of employees visit the break room. But if they come in only to find an empty coffee pot, then they have to spend their time brewing more coffee instead taking a quick break and then getting back to work. So make sure you include something in your etiquette rules about refilling the coffee pot once you’ve emptied it.
Outline Different Tasks
Some tasks, like throwing away food when you’re done with it, should be done by each employee once they’re done using the break room. But others, like emptying out the fridge or scrubbing the microwave, can be done on a less-than-daily basis. Since it’s likely that all your employees use those items, you could come up with a fair way to distribute those tasks, like a list or chore wheel.
While it is important to create specific rules for your employee break room, that doesn’t mean you need to expect the world from your team members. If you want everyone to be absolutely silent or if you expect people to scrub out the fridge every day, they’re not likely to even want to use the break room at all. So make sure that what your asking of your team in terms of etiquette is actually reasonable.
Ask Employees What They Think
To find out what your employees think is reasonable and what they expect from their fellow team members, the best thing you can do is actually talk to them. Ask about their pet peeves or what they wish would change about their break room experience. Then you can use that input to shape your rules.
Above all, your employees should be considerate of others when using the break room. Things like microwaving seafood or having loud phone conversations can ruin the space for everyone. So just make sure that they consider how their behavior affects their coworkers and ask that they be considerate when using the break room.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Finally, whatever rules and policies you come up with should be very clear to your employees. If they don’t know what is expected of them, then you can’t really fault them if they don’t abide by those rules. So create a sign or other visual representation of the break room etiquette that you expect and keep it on display so that everyone knows exactly what type of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
Break Room Photo via Shutterstock