In the middle of the 20th century, the United States modernized its workplaces with labor laws that greatly improved America’s working conditions. Before this time, it was not uncommon for laborers to persist through 12-14 hour days for 6 days a week, or often as many as 100 hours a week. It made the news in fact when Ford Motor issued its 5-day work week with 8 hour days – an uncommon trend for those times. Henry Ford explained this decision stating, “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.” It would still be more than a decade however before Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act to establish these ideals more securely and more nationally.
Stemming from these changes was the lunch break, a piece of our workday many argue is critical to both productivity and happiness. While this practice is waning in modern times, with only 1 in 5 people taking a true break from work for their lunch hour, researchers are adamant about the notion that creativity and innovation benefit from a change in environment.
This is especially true in natural environments, according to the University of California’s Kimberly Elsbach. In fact, her research leads her to believe that the “getting out” part of a lunch break is arguably more important than even the “lunch” part of a lunch break. In an interview with NPR, she said “you don’t actually need to go eat, you just need to get out. And it doesn’t have to be between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to have a positive impact. It can be just going outside and taking a walk around the block. That in itself is really restorative.”
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It’s all well and good to recommend that your employees take a walk around the block to rejuvenate their minds, but is there a more practical way to achieve this goal?
Of course there is.
If you think creating a rejuvenating outdoor break space for employees requires complicated site furnishings, you’ve likely never paid attention to your own work habits and rhythms. How often for example have you stepped outside into the parking lot or empty stairwell to take a personal phone call? With little more intentionality than a simple picnic table, any small business with a courtyard, front lawn, or even parking lot can provide an outdoor break space for employees.
To recap the benefits of an outdoor picnic table, let’s review the beneficial effect of outdoor breaks.
- Outdoor breaks increase creativity by changing one’s environment.
- Time spent outdoors can reduce stress by lowering one’s heart rate.
- Taking breaks increases energy, motivation, and prevents dissatisfaction or burnout in the workplace.
- In many cases, a break is required by law.
When setting up an outdoor break space for employees, what does a business need to consider for site furnishing?
- While you do not need fancy site furnishings to accomplish an outdoor break space, you may want to consider a picnic table that’s ADA compliant. This means it’s accessible to wheelchair users.
- If your outdoor space is uncovered, you may want to consider a picnic table that’s designed for durability. Recycled plastic picnic tables for example are especially durable, resisting both damages from inclement weather as well as vandalism.
- Depending on the nature of your outdoor space, you may prefer a portable picnic table rather than one that’s mounted in-ground or on the surface.
- If you have an exterior design scheme to consider or wish to maintain your branding colors, you may want to consider a steel picnic table with colored powder coating. This powder coating not only allows for custom coloring, it also adds an extra level of durability to your picnic table.
While the pressures of modern work life can steer trends away from the traditional lunch break system, businesses of any kind are wise to continue accommodating outdoor break spaces for their employees. This can be as simple as providing a picnic table onsite where employees can take space away from their work, even for fifteen minutes. Not only will this improve their work, but it will also improve their job satisfaction as well.