Social Spaces That Work Throughout the Workday

08/01/2017 | By Justin Feit, Janelle Penny

Far from distracting employees, breakout areas and spaces for socialization can actually improve productivity. A casual chat over lunch can spark an idea. Bumping into a colleague on the way to the coffee pot can lead to collaboration.

This café area at PayU, a major competitor to PayPal, embodies commercial design firm AEI’s concept of  “hometainment,” the art of adding residential- and hospitality-inspired touches to the office.
(Photo: This café area at PayU, a major competitor to PayPal, embodies commercial design firm AEI’s concept of “hometainment,” the art of adding residential- and hospitality-inspired touches to the office. Credit: AEI)

“Previously, business owners didn’t want to waste square footage on plazas, multipurpose rooms, breakout areas and socializing spaces. They wanted to see how many bodies they could fit in the space,” explains David Chason, Partner of AEI U.S. Studio.

“It has come full circle in the last six to eight years. Designers have always put that into our designs, but clients and business owners
 are now listening to that and using square footage in a different way that affects retention of employees," says Chason.

Thoughtful renovation can turn a humdrum breakroom into a space that achieves maximum use throughout the workday.

Try these 3 tips to draw people in:

1. Pay attention to café and breakroom design

“Food draws everyone together,” says Amy Klinefelter, Interior Designer for Gresham, Smith and Partners. “Providing large gathering spaces to collaborate and eat together is a great way to draw in younger employees and retain them longer.”

2. Instead of a breakroom, look at social spaces with multiple functions in mind.

Chason views these areas as the “town center” around which the workplace revolves. “We look at spaces as cities,” he adds. “You’ve got houses in the suburbs, you’ve got townhouse and skyscraper buildings, you’ve got parks, and that’s how we look at the landscape of office space for a business.You also have enclosed private conference rooms – like when you plant a hedge for privacy – and open plan workstations where everyone has a visual of each other – the same as when you live in a city with lots of neighbors.”

3. Consider white noise or other acoustic solutions for open and common areas to keep socialization from bothering people in nearby workspaces.

[If you're considering sound masking systems, check out: Products that Put Control in Occupants’ Hands]


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