What to consider when designing a workplace canteen

The word ‘canteen’ or ‘cafeteria’, to most, brings back memories of school dinners. Food served on plastic trays, and having to sit on uncomfortable plastic seats are just some of them. Similarly, in the workplace, it’s important to have an area that employees can socialise and have a break from work. However, as employees will be preparing their own food, the design and layout of a workplace canteen needs to be much more versatile and advanced. Additionally, incorporating a stimulating and motivating interior design is important for encouraging and restoring creative minds.

it’s important to have an area that employees can socialise and have a break from work

According to the World Green Building Council, a smartly designed canteen can reduce absenteeism, enhance creativity and encourage a more focused workforce that is less stressed. Many workplaces do not devote time and finances to leisure areas, but it could be the case that doing so might create smarter and more efficient workers.

One of the most important aspects of designing a canteen is considering space and mobility. A canteen that is congested and overcrowded will mean that employees are unable to prepare their food and it makes the moving of furniture a difficult task. Therefore, at the beginning of the designing process, the amount of chairs needed to seat each employee needs to be accounted for; this will help to decide the measurements for the canteen. Having enough room for large tables is also a good idea, since these help to encourage socialising and collaboration between workers. In addition to the food/service area, there also needs to be enough empty space between each piece of furniture so that tables and chairs can be moved around easily.

The amount of chairs needed to seat each employee needs to be accounted for

Flexibility is a key aspect of ensuring that the canteen suits all types of employee. Having a variation of quieter areas (such as small tables against a window or alcoves) and more sociable areas will suit those who prefer to sit with larger groups of people as well as those who wish to sit quietly reading a book, or work on their laptop. Incorporating high tables and bar stools are popular amongst workplace canteens since they offer versatility with regards to socialising and mobility. Space which extends outside is also ideal for those who like to get some fresh air during their break, and so is something to consider.

The area in which employees prepare food also needs to be spacious so that several people can access appliances at one time. It’s also important that the necessary appliances are installed, including a refrigerator, oven, kettle, microwave, stoves with multiple burners and coffee and water dispensers. This will ensure that employees have a wide range of options for their daytime meal. It’s essential that flooring, particularly in the kitchen area, is slip-resistant in order to avoid dangerous risks and injuries. Additionally, it helps to have flooring that enables the easy cleaning of spillages and resists the build-up of dirt.

Lighter areas of the room may be better for the food preparation

Lighting makes all the difference to interior design. Opting for large windows is a good idea for a canteen, since natural light boosts mood and motivation. Not only that, but it also makes designing an area easier since the light helps to define the uses of each space. For example, the lighter areas of the room may be better for the food preparation area and for the communal tables, to provide a more energising atmosphere. Softer lighting, i.e. areas with less natural light or softer light sources may be better for lounge areas with armchairs and sofas to create a more relaxing environment.

An adjoining entertainment room or lounge area is also something to consider when designing a canteen, so that employees can fully switch off and reset before starting an afternoon of work. Simply setting aside some room for soft seating and magazines makes a difference, or you may choose to have an extra room for games and relaxation.

Colour can be added through the furniture

Aesthetically, adding pops of colour and textures within the design helps to improve employee motivation and will make the canteen a place that workers look forward to visiting. Colour can be added through the furniture; incorporating seating made of fabric or leather adds more colour options. Alternatively, make the most of nature by navigating towards a biophilic design. This can be done by adding tables made of wood or dotting some plants around the room.

You don’t want to associate your canteen with school dinner experiences

It may be a good idea to make the canteen an interactive space, by putting a board, for example, on the wall where employees can write down inspirational quotes. This way they can add their own personal touch to the space.

The canteen can also be a place of interaction. Putting up a whiteboard or creating a chalkboard wall will give your employees the opportunity to share motivating or inspiring quotes, whilst adding their own personal touch to the space. This way, your employees will have a break from their workload whilst still having the ability to be creative. The last thing any employee wants is a canteen that they associate with their school dinner experiences – cold, stodgy and uncomfortable – so it’s ideal to design a space that is modern yet interactive and functional.