We should all be watching the emergence of the new breakroom concept with anticipation. There is more focus among human resource (HR) professionals on the employee experience and a surge in employees coming back to the physical work space. Some operators have been asked to participate already by stocking company kitchens with food and drink options (pantry service) or providing a café-style service in the break area that includes specialty drinks, comfortable seating and access to refreshment (workplace café, micro market lounge). Taken together, I see this as the dawning of a new era and if vending, micro market and office coffee service providers are positioned correctly, a lucrative and transformative one.
Evolving break time
While there are no federal laws requiring companies to offer their employees breaks throughout a shift, there are a number of state laws that do, according to WorkplaceFairness.org. Some 20 states require meal breaks (generally unpaid) and nine require rest breaks (usually paid). However, as we know, companies across the country offer breaks in order to compete for quality employees, and along with the break is usually a break area to keep employees from being forced to leave the location.
In its most basic form, a breakroom might be a place to store a lunch, refill the coffee mug and possibly eat at standard laminate tables with hard chairs that are easy to clean. Harder to see is the potential of these spaces. A breakroom presents a place for work friendships to form, best practices across departments or projects to be shared, and for the company to express appreciation to employees while reinforcing the corporate message.
How convenience services fit
It's true that architects and interior designers create the stunning break areas we see in many presentations, especially those from companies in Silicon Valley. However, "God is in the details." (Please forgive this semi religious reference, as I am just reiterating a quote I am sure most of you have heard that means that details matter.) It is the execution of that breakroom that is most important, which means the food and drinks available, as much or more than it means the atmosphere. It is the vending, micro market and office coffee service operators that are there every week (or everyday) delivering the regular service that keeps the breakroom a place worth visiting. A 2016 Staples survey about workplaces indicated that "83 percent of employees say that a well-stocked breakroom results in happier employees, while 53 percent say that a well-stocked breakroom results in more productive employees." Well-stocked is what operators do best.
The Staples article also talked about surveying employees to find out what they wanted in the breakroom. This is something operators talk about as well. This would be a great opportunity to partner with a location and get the information that will help both you and the HR manager trying to improve corporate culture. It can even be used as evidence for the facilities manager more interested in reports that prove your service is a good idea.
Other partnership opportunities in the breakroom exist as well. Health and wellness is a big one. Color coded or special marketing for the healthy items is something employees and decision makers are hoping for in break areas. Great tasting, healthy items are at the top of the list of operators visiting trade shows looking for new products. Another area of partnership is reinforcing the company message. Breakrooms are a prime area for operators to offer companies the chance to tout their virtues to employees. Signage, events, postings, treats, etc., can all remind employees why the location is a great place to work, as well as give space to mission statements and inspirations that reinforce the message on a daily basis.
If there is a staffing problem in this country, and arguably there is or will be, I think a large part of the answer is breakrooms. By positioning themselves as partners that can help companies with their staffing needs through services, operators are in a prime position for the coming era.