How to Create the Perfect Breakout Area

Do you want to create a space in your office where staff can relax and be creative? Maybe you run a school, sixth form or college and want somewhere for your students to hang out and eat lunch? Whatever the reason, breakout areas are an increasingly popular way of using space in public buildings. If you want to create the perfect breakout area, then keep reading…

What is a breakout area? 

What exactly is a breakout area? It’s one of those vaguely defined terms that gets bandied about a lot by the designers of offices and other interior planners, and tends to mean different things to different people.

For us here at Rosehill, we define a breakout area as any furnished space within a building which is available for employees, visitors, pupils etc where they can work and relax away from their normal working space.

What’s important in that definition is the word furnished. Why? Because A) if the breakout area isn’t furnished, it’s not going to get used, and B) it needs to be furnished in a distinct way as to be clearly separate from the building’s normal working spaces. 

If a breakout area is just furnished with the same types of furniture you get in the rest of the building, it’s not going to feel like much of a breakout area…

The whole point is to create a space which is distinct from the rest of your building.

What are breakout areas used for? 

As we’ve alluded to above, the whole value of a good breakout space is in its versatility. 

Provided it has been equipped with the right kind of furnishings, then a breakout space can be used for myriad purposes, from a space to relax and eat lunch, somewhere for staff to chat and come up with new ideas, to an area for visitors to wait. 

Below are some specific things that breakout areas tend to be used for.

Example of a breakout space

Breaktimes

Breakout areas have become popular in recent years in response to stipulations from the Health & Safety Executive that workers are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes when they are working six hours or more in a day. 

The benefit of breakout areas is that they not only provide a comfortable environment in which workers can take a break, but they are on the premises, meaning that little to no time is lost in the transition between the worker’s desk and the breakout area. 

Group work and collaboration

Breakout areas are also ideal for accommodating group work. 

Picture the scene, you and two or three other colleagues have been tasked with working on a new project. It’s impractical to sit around a single desk, and a meeting room can impede collaboration – enter the breakout area. 

Being able to sit in a relaxed fashion on comfortable seating in a configuration which allows you all to face each other, makes collaboration far easier.

Focused working

Different environments lend themselves to different kinds of work. As we mentioned above, an open, lively, coffee-shop style breakout space makes the perfect environment for collaborative working. 

Likewise, a quiet breakout area that’s tucked into a peaceful corner of your building and equipped with acoustic booths is ideal for focused work which requires large amounts of concentration. 

Setting up a quiet breakout area is especially important in places like open-plan offices where distractions can be abundant. 

Creating a quiet breakout area with acoustic booths will help to create the blend of ‘prairies’ and ‘caves’ that people need to work effectively (prairie referring to open spaces for collaboration, and caves referring to quiet places for focused work).

Waiting area

If your premises aren’t big enough to accommodate a dedicated reception area, yet you regularly receive visitors, then a breakout area is the perfect compromise. 

It’s a place for visitors to wait, but is also available for multiple other uses too.

Open space

In these post-Covid times, many people are wary of working in confined spaces, particularly offices where desks may be too close to each other for comfort. 

Creating a breakout space provides a light, airy, open space where staff members who may be nervous about the return to the office have somewhere to work and hang out.

Common rooms

Today’s pupils and students at schools, colleges, sixth forms and academies won’t accept tired old common rooms. They want to hang out, dine and work in cool, trendy spaces with different types of seating, tables and other furnishings.

So, a breakout area is the perfect way to create a common room that pupils and students will actually want to use.

With academies and higher education institutions having to compete more than ever to attract new students, having a well-equipped breakout area will make a big difference to student recruitment and retention.

Hatton Stacking Chair

Hatton Stacking Chair

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What are the benefits of breakout areas? 

As you can see, breakout areas have many uses, many of which will be highly beneficial to your business or organisation. 

But, what exact benefits do they provide? Are they really worth the investment? 

As the benefits outlined below demonstrate, breakout areas are definitely worth creating in your building. 

Employee wellbeing

Breakout areas boost employee wellbeing. They provide a dedicated space where staff can get away from their desks, have a change of scenery and switch off. 

Breakout areas can reduce stress and by extension, improve productivity. As we said at the outset of this article, a breakout space is about creating an area that’s distinct from the workspace, helping employees to draw a clear dividing line between their regular working space, and somewhere more informal.

Promote movement

You may have heard the term ‘sitting is the new smoking’. If you haven’t, it’s in response to concerns that spending too many hours sitting down each day can lead to a whole host of health problems such as obesity. 

Breakout areas help to encourage movement, providing workers with an incentive to get up from their desk and move around the office. 

If you add fun features such as ping pong or football tables to a breakout space, that encourages further movement and activity amongst employees – which is great for employee health!

Innovation

Have you ever wondered why all of those Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook are so enthusiastic about breakout spaces? 

The answer can be summed up in one word – innovation. 

Breakout spaces are proven to encourage what’s called serendipity. This means the spontaneous occurrence of events and ideas. 

By creating a space where different people from across your business or organisation can randomly encounter each other, you essentially create a ‘melting pot’, where chance encounters between different departments can lead to the creation of new ideas. 

In this sense, a well designed and furnished breakout space can more than pay for itself, especially if it leads to particularly novel ideas and innovations.

Don’t just take our word for it though. Here’s what Google’s UK MD, Dan Cobley has to say about breakout spaces: 

“People will chat… Chats become ideas, and ideas become projects”.

Additional workspace

Whilst this may not be the most exciting benefit of creating a breakout area, it is certainly a very practical one. 

With more and more companies employing freelancers to help them scale up and down to meet demand as necessary, breakout areas are proving to be great sources of additional workspace. 

Provided they are properly furnished and have access to WiFi, breakout areas are a great way of creating short-term additional workspace. 

As we mentioned earlier, the right type of breakout area can also provide space for collaborative or focused working. 

With hot desking becoming increasingly popular, with fewer and fewer workers having their own full-time dedicated desks, a breakout area can also create more space for informal, ad-hoc working opportunities. 

Employee recruitment and retention

As talk of the ‘great resignation’ continues, many organisations are finding it difficult to attract and retain great employees. 

Things like breakout areas are ideal for creating modern, stylish working environments which will not only attract, but help you to keep your best staff. 

People aren’t content to work in old-fashioned offices anymore, so a breakout area is a great way of adding to the appeal of your workplace and wider business.

How to create a breakout area for an office

How to create the perfect breakout area

Hopefully we’ve convinced you of the merits of breakout areas! If you want to create one in your office or public building, you might be wondering what you need to do. 

Below, the Rosehill team have set out their top tips to help you create the perfect breakout area. 

Purpose

The first thing you should do is decide what exactly you want your breakout area to achieve. 

Is it going to be a space for fruitful collaboration and innovation? Is it going to be a quiet, peaceful space for focused work? Maybe it’s a general chill-out zone where staff can eat lunch, talk and unwind. Perhaps you want it to accommodate all of these things? 

What’s important is that you are clear on what you are aiming to achieve with a breakout area. 

Once you’ve decided what you want people to actually do in your breakout area, things like furniture selection, decor and other considerations will become much easier.

Location

Based on what purposes your breakout area is going to be used for, the next step is to decide upon a location.

Do you want to create a bustling, lively, coffee-shop type environment? Or a quiet, calm area for focused work? 

In the case of the former, you’ll want to locate your breakout area near high footfall thoroughfares and close to parts of the building with lots of people. For the latter, you’ll want to locate your breakout area in a part of the building which is quieter and which receives less footfall.

Involve your employees/users

If you want to make sure your breakout area proves popular and actually ends up being used by staff, then it’s a good idea to involve them in the design process. 

The easiest way to do this is to run a survey. Ask staff what they feel a great breakout space would consist of. Ask them what they would use it for.

Alternatively, you could pull together a focus group and carry out an informal discussion as to what type of breakout space will work best for your company/organisation. 

Regardless of how you consult with staff, the simple fact that you have actually consulted them will increase the likelihood that your new breakout area is popular.

Aesthetics

Once you’ve picked a purpose and location for your breakout area, you need to give some thought to its aesthetics. 

How a breakout area looks and feels is more important than many people realise. Remember, one of the key benefits of breakout areas is that they create a distinct area away from the regular place of work. 

As such, the aesthetics of a breakout area should clearly reflect this. You want the breakout area to be immediately recognisable as one. As such, resist the temptation to make it too corporate. 

Yes, you can incorporate some of your company’s brand colours etc, but try not to go over the top – you risk turning the breakout area into an extension of the main office/working space, which rather defeats the point!

The key to creating a successful breakout area is to make it somewhere people actually want to go.

So, think about choosing modular seating in bold and attractive colours, eye-catching sofas, and if dining is on the agenda, attractive, modern tables and benches like our Axiom Block Steel Tables & Benches.

Even things like acoustic booths don’t have to be boring or overly corporate. Our range of acoustic booths here at Rosehill include some models which wouldn’t look out of place in the trendiest of cafes and bars…

A note on colours

Aside from the wider aesthetic of the breakout area, it’s important that you give particular consideration to the colours that you use – be they on the walls or on the furniture.

Colour has been proven to have a big impact on mood, so we’d suggest that you avoid colours like red, which are linked to anger, whilst colours like green and blue have a positive effect on mental health. Green in particular is also linked to creativity, which is ideal if you want your breakout area to be a source of collaboration and innovation.

Items of furniture are an easy way of conveying colours, with many items, such as acoustic booths, pods and modular seating available in two-tone colourways.

FYI – ‘two tone’ is a furniture industry term which means that a piece of furniture has two different colours (or shades of a single colour). 

Furnishings

A breakout area isn’t going to be successful unless it’s properly furnished. 

Furniture is the core of a breakout area, so it’s vital that you select not only the right types of furniture, but items which are of the proper quality and flexibility. 

When it comes to seating, we’d highly recommend the use of modular furniture. This allows you to be flexible when it comes to laying out your breakout area. Modular furniture is also easy to change in the future – so it’s easy to keep your breakout area looking and feeling fresh and different!

We know we keep repeating this point, but a breakout area is supposed to look and feel different from regular working areas – so this should be reflected in the furniture you choose. 

Further on in this article, we have set out the best items of furniture to use in breakout areas. 

A mix of furniture heights

In addition to thinking about the different types of furniture you want in your breakout area, another important consideration is the different furniture heights you select. 

This is more important than it might seem. That’s furniture of different heights lend themselves to particular types of work/relaxing. Likewise, different people like to work/dine/relax at different heights. 

For example, if someone wants to sit and relax, they’re more than likely going to want to sit at ‘coffee table’ level, on a bench, sofa or comfortable easy chair. On the other hand, when it comes to working on a laptop, some people prefer to sit at a standard height table, whilst others prefer to ‘perch’ on a stool at a poseur height table, or stand while working. 

As the examples above illustrate, it’s good to have a mix of furniture of different heights throughout your breakout area – especially if you want it to be a multi-purpose area that’s used by lots of different people, for lots of different things!

Privacy

Another point not to overlook is privacy – especially if you want people to be able to undertake focused work in your breakout area. 

You can achieve that by including acoustic booths, pods and screens throughout your breakout area. But note, these types of furniture offer different levels of privacy. 

For maximum privacy, choose an acoustic booth. These are perfect for holding meetings, working on projects or taking video or phone calls. 

The intermediate privacy option is pods. Think of these as being seats which are ‘shielded’ on the sides, top and back, helping to dampen and baffle surrounding noise. They provide the perfect place to sit and enjoy some quiet time, to read or to take a phone call. 

The ‘light’ privacy option is screens. These help to both visually and acoustically shield areas, whilst also acting as dividers helping to delineate the different parts of a breakout area.

Example of multi-height breakout area

The best items of furniture for breakout areas

Whether you want to create a breakout area for intense, focused work, or you want to create an open coffee shop style environment, furniture is arguably the most important element. 

Below, we’ve detailed the best items of furniture for creating a breakout area, drawing upon our experience creating breakout areas in offices, higher education institutions and other public buildings across the UK. 

Seating

When it comes to seating for breakout areas, as we mentioned earlier, modular seating is a fantastic option. Modular seating not only provides you with the ability to easily change the layout and feel of your space, but also looks fun, relaxed and different from your standard office furniture. 

As we mentioned earlier, it’s always good to offer a mix of seating in a breakout area, so consider selecting some general purpose seating such as the Klia stacking chair.

Below are some of our favourite items of modular and general seating. 

Open Modular Seating

Open Modular Seating Range

Open Modular Seating Range

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The Open modular seating range is ideal for breakout areas, co-working spaces and agile working environments alike, thanks to its subtle 90º and 60º curves.

These curves can help you create interesting and unusual layouts within your breakout area, helping to create defined areas for certain purposes. Within the range it’s possible to mix and match benches as well as opting for low or high back versions. 

The high back versions are perfect for helping to create areas that encourage concentration and deep work, whilst the low back versions are ideal for creating collaborative spaces. 

Manufactured in the UK, the Open modular seating range features strong steel frames in black, silver or chrome, with upholstery options including fabric and vinyl. It’s also possible to select a two-tone finish to add an extra element of flare and colour. 

Grafton Stacking Chair

Grafton Stacking Chair

Grafton Stacking Chair

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If you want to include some general purpose seating in your breakout area (and we recommend that you do!), then the Grafton stacking chair is a great choice.

Manufactured from 100% recycled polypropylene and available in eight colours, ranging from subtle greys to bold and vibrant reds and greens, the Grafton features a modern design that wouldn’t look out of place in the most stylish of venues.

The Grafton is eminently practical too, as it can be stacked up to 8 high (or 6 high if you opt for the version with an upholstered seat pad). 

It can also be upgraded to include castor wheels, a task base and even a tablet to accommodate laptops etc.

FYI – the Grafton is also available as a stool version for use with poseur-height tables.

Fifteen Modular Seating

Fifteen Modular Seating Range

Fifteen Modular Seating Range

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The Fifteen modular seating range is another fantastic option for breakout areas. This is thanks to the sheer variety of different models which allow you to create a varied, fun breakout area.

The 14 different models within the Fifteen range include seating modules with low or high backs, single, two and three seater modules, and corner and radial models to allow you to create endless layout configurations. 

The Fifteen modular seating range is made with FSC® certified plywood, furniture grade fibreboard and combustion modified high resilience (CMHR) foam. They are finished with a floor rail available in silver and black, whilst upholstery options include a range of fabrics and faux leather. 

To make the Fifteen range even more versatile, power and data modules can be added on request. 

Tables and benches

No breakout area is truly complete without a range of tables and benches. Well-appointed benches and tables can create a fun area for people to hang out and catch up, as well as creating an area for informal dining or work. 

As we mentioned earlier, when selecting tables and benches for your breakout area, it’s important to consider items of different heights, from coffee tables and standard height tables through to poseur tables.

Below, you’ll find some of our most popular tables and benches for breakout areas. 

Axiom Block Steel Tables & Benches

Axiom Block Steel Tables & Benches

Axiom Block Steel Tables & Benches

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The Axiom wouldn’t look out of place in a hip-cafe or bar – and that’s entirely the point!

When you want to create a breakout area that really stands out from the rest of your regular working areas, tables and benches like the Axiom make the perfect choice. 

Feature a bold, blocky modernist design and with the metal frame available in a range of vibrant, vivid colours, the Axiom will help to create a fun area for casual hangouts, work and dining. 

In addition to looking great, the Axiom tables and benches will provide years of reliable service thanks to their robust construction. The 40mm top on the tables and benches has an easy to clean laminate surface, whilst the fully-welded steel frame is 40mm thick.

Natta Meeting Tables

Natta Meeting Tables

Natta Meeting Tables

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The Natta range of meeting tables offer a minimalist, Nordic-inspired look combined with solid design and construction – making them perfect for breakout areas, agile working spaces and other informal, multi-purpose contexts.

Available in both standard height and poseur height, the Natta range allows you to keep a continuity of design across different heights for furniture – perfect for achieving a consistent look and feel across the entirety of your breakout area. 

The Natta range of meeting tables are highly customisable with the laminate top available in three colours and the frame available in different finishes including beech, light oak, walnut or maple.

The Natta meeting tables are also available as a package with attractive benches or poseur stools.

Acoustic booths and pods

These days, no breakout area is truly complete without an acoustic booth or some pods. 

Perfect for creating an area for focused work and discussion, acoustic booths are not only highly practical, but are an attractive, trendy feature – which is particularly handy if you’re trying to attract and retain the very best staff. 

In short – acoustic booths and pods have become an expected part of cool workspaces. Below, you’ll find some of our most popular models.

Oasis Linear Acoustic Booth

Oasis Linear Acoustic Booth

Oasis Linear Acoustic Booth

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The Oasis Linear is one of the highest quality, most well-equipped acoustic booths on the market. 

Equipped with ambient lighting, an air circulation fan and glazed panels, the Oasis Linear is fitted throughout with acoustically absorbent materials, making it the perfect place to take calls, hold video meetings or simply carry out some intense, focused work. 

The Oasis Linear is available in five distinct models; the Oasis Linear Studio Pod Lite, the Oasis Linear Studio Pod, the Oasis Linear Phone Booth, the Oasis Linear Team Booth, and Oasis Linear Pod. 

Which one is right for your breakout area will depend on the space you have available. Each Oasis Linear model is highly customisable with the option to add extra technologies, power modules, sofas, tables, and more. 

If you want the very best acoustic booth for your breakout space, then stop searching, because you’ve just found it.

Fifteen Pods

Fifteen Pods

Fifteen Pods

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As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, it’s important to add a touch or flare and fun to your breakout area. The Fifteen pod is the perfect way to do that. 

Consisting of a range of modular, flexible units, the Fifteen is available in one to six seater options with the ability to connect the pods facing each other to create a discreet, private area. 

The pods, which are manufactured here in the UK, have a high back and are enclosed with a panel going around and above the seat, creating a private, quiet environment for the user. To add an extra touch of style, the Fifteen pods are available in a two tone finish. 

Other furniture for breakout areas

Aside from seating, tables, booths and pods, there are a number of other items of furniture which will add to the versatility of your breakout area.

Fabric Screens

Vibe Desktop Fabric Screens

Vibe Desktop Fabric Screens

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To add an extra element of privacy and practicality to the ‘working’ areas of your breakout area, add desktop fabric screens.

These provide a visual and acoustic barrier, as well as creating clear dividing lines – helping to differentiate the ‘working’ parts of a breakout area from the more informal parts.

Rosehill can also offer freestanding screens. Contact us for more information on these, as they aren’t currently listed on our website.

Block shelving units

Bloq Modular Office Shelves

Bloq Modular Office Shelves

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Block shelving units, like our Bloq Modular Office Shelves, are not only practical – offering a space to store or display items – but also offer a fun and stylish visual element to a breakout area. They can also act as an informal partition to separate different working or collaborative areas.

The Bloq Modular Office Shelves are endlessly configurable, with an easy linking system (each frame comes with a linking kit and top caps). There are also a wide variety of inserts available such as boxes, cupboards, trays and planters, adding further practicality to the shelves.

Breakout area design service UK

We understand that designing and creating a breakout area (and making it a successful one), can be a considerable challenge. 

That’s why at Rosehill we offer a breakout area design service*, where we work with you step by step from the initial design stage to the selection of furnishings. 

If you’d like to find out more about our breakout area design service, contact us today on 0161 485 1717 or by email at: sales@rosehill.co.uk and our friendly team will be happy to help!

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For over 30 years Rosehill has been supplying offices, colleges, higher education institutions and other public buildings with the highest quality furniture. 

If you’re creating a breakout area in your building, then don’t hesitate to explore our range and contact us if you have any questions or require advice; we’re always happy to help.

Contact Rosehill about your breakout area furniture requirements today

For more commercial and contract furniture buying guides, information and advice, read the Rosehill blog…

How to Find What You Want on the Rosehill Website | What Is the Best Acoustic Booth for Your Office? | Wooden vs Metal vs Plastic Stacking Chairs: Which Is Best For Your Public Building? 

 

*Only available on certain ranges. Charges may apply.