Senior Editor Laura Walter

The Break Room: Getting Comfortable at Work

Feeling at home in your workspace can boost both morale and productivity.

I had just started a new job at a rapidly growing company. Their growth was so rapid, in fact, that they didn't have an office for me. Management worked out a temporary solution by placing a desk and computer in an empty, previously unused room. While the space was bare and spare – there was nothing warm and cozy about this temporary office's concrete walls and floor – I didn't mind that. What I did mind was the room's back door that led directly to the warehouse.

This door offered a shortcut between the main office and the warehouse, and the fact that I was now camped out in my new "office" didn't faze the warehouse workers. Dozens of times a day, the door behind me would pop open and an employee would rush behind my back, interrupting my train of thought and scaring me half to death.

Believe me, I understood why my coworkers continued using this door and why they weren't exactly eager to change their ways. This was the entrance they'd always used, so it was a habit that had long since been ingrained. Plus, avoiding this door meant they'd have to walk the long way through the warehouse to enter the main office building. I sympathized, I did, but I also couldn't work effectively with people constantly barging through my office, not to mention bringing the noise and freezing drafts of the warehouse with them. Eventually, following management's decision to seal the door, the unannounced visits stopped and I could let my guard down in my office.

Feeling comfortable at work is important, and it can drastically impact worker morale and productivity. If you're distracted by the noise or behavior of other employees, freezing in a chilly warehouse, overheating in the summer sun, forced to endure frequent interruptions, or even subjected to the smell of stinky food (will you sign my petition to ban all fish-based lunches from the office microwave?), your work could suffer.

At the least, sprucing up your own workspace – by clearing the clutter off your desk, bringing in photographs of your friends, family and pets, or hanging a favorite piece of art – can bring some cheer to your workday and make it that much easier to face your work tasks.

Our new employee collaboration lounge

I'm thankful that my temporary office from that previous job is now a distant memory. Here at Penton Media, I recently moved to a new desk with a window. It really makes a difference in my mood to be able to glance at the activity outside rather than four gray walls. I'm thrilled with my new workspace and was sure to display some of my favorite pictures and decorations. After all, a happy, comfortable worker is a productive worker.

Our Cleveland office recently took this concept to another level by creating a "collaboration lounge" for employees. The new lounge is painted bright green and features comfy armchairs, couches and even a Wii and a shuffleboard game to encourage employees to improve their work through play.  Granted, I've been too busy to make use of these games, but I do enjoy walking past the bright green space and having an occasional meeting in our new lounge.

Do you make an effort to help your employees feel comfortable at work? How do you arrange or decorate your work area to feel more at home? I'd like to see your solutions. Send me a photo – of your office, cubicle, break room, lounge, onsite kitchen or cafeteria, you name it – to [email protected]. Let's see your home away from home.

Send an e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].

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