In an age where strong corporate culture is a powerful employee retention tool, the workplace cafeteria is undergoing a major facelift. No longer just a site of simple nourishment, cafeterias have been reimagined as spaces that can deliver serious ROI in the form of worker productivity and happiness.
In fact, recent studies show that communal, well-designed cafeterias can reduce absenteeism, improve morale, and enhance team-building. They can become fantastic places to not only eat, but also to relax, socialize and collaborate. It’s quite possible that the next million-dollar idea may arise from a conversation over sandwiches and coffee.
Here’s how to turn your cafeteria from a snack bar into a versatile space that encourages productivity.
Good Design Promotes Versatility, Happiness, and Efficiency
A successful cafeteria doesn’t just mean delicious food with nutritional value. Every detail in the space of the cafeteria itself — how it looks, feels, and the functions it facilitates — must be executed with thought and precision in order to maximize its potential.
Here are some guidelines that will help you plan a great cafeteria:
Keep the Space Open
Multiple studies have shown that open floor plans are not only more cost-effective, but they also promote better collaboration and happiness. Fewer materials — and thus less money — are put into walls and other physical barriers. And less physicalbarriers mean more fluid communication and greater teamwork. Humans are social creatures and their social needs can be better met in open spaces.
Flexibility is Key
The space should be flexible as well as open. Provide large communal spaces as well as smaller, more intimate settings. Allow tables and chairs to be moved on the fly. This way, the cafeteria can accommodate large team building pow-wows as well as one-on-ones, helping cultivate both professional and personal relationships.
Lighting Affects Mood
Natural lighting is almost always best, though strategic lighting can be used to accommodate different “modes.” Bright lights, for instance, can energize larger groups sitting at communal tables. For lounge and work areas, softer lighting may be more appropriate. Accompanying good lighting with appropriate plants can increase mood, focus, and relaxation.
Power and Internet
Provide ample power outlets and easy wireless access. These days most, if not all, people work on electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Their productivity is practically bound to their phone and laptop batteries and Wi-Fi connection. Make sure they can never run out of power or lose signal.
Rebrand the Cafeteria
Employees may not initially perceive the cafeteria as a space for productivity and collaboration. Create a new, compelling term to more accurately represent the space, and the behaviors there will follow suit.
A Good Cafeteria Doesn’t Just Satisfy, It Motivates
Today’s workforce, especially Millennials and Generation Z, expect companies to care about their workers’ mental and physical health as well as their bank accounts. They’re used to modern and cool Google-like workplaces that cater to their every need.
In order to keep a healthy influx of new talent, companies will have to provide work environments that are collaborative, stimulating and, most of all, fun. A good place to start is the cafeteria — a place that has many positive uses to a forward-thinking organization.