First of all, I wanted to say thanks to Mark and Mike for such a great site, I have certainly learned a lot from your podcasts and forums, and I hope that Manager-Tools has a long, successful life!

I have been in the position of team leader at a reasonably large IT Helpdesk for just about a year and a half, long enough for the staff to view me as a manager, rather than a peer and I really, really enjoy my job. (except performance management. I don't know if I'll ever enjoy that aspect. :( )

We have recently acquired a "breakout room" due to another business unit moving elsewhere, and I was wondering what the general consensus is on managing such a thing. I want for my staff to enjoy their jobs, it's a very technical role, and sometimes quite frustrating and we've tried to reduce staff burnout over the last couple of years in an effort to retain the great people that we have. I think that, done properly, a breakout room will give our people an outlet to vent some of that steam, in a non destructive manner and make this job more enjoyable for everyone in the long run.

I have a feeling I am going to come up against some opposition from my management with regards to making the breakout room "fun" and wanted to get some input from the managers here as to - do you have a breakout room, what is it's purpose other than a table and some chairs in a room for people to lunch at, how do you manage people using (or abusing) the room?

A couple of ideas I had were to repaint it some colour other than the drab colour it is now, and put a screen (not a TV, this has some political implications) and a game console like a playstation, some magazines and books and card games and whatnot in there, and make it a pleasant place for people to use it. And then make it available for small team meetings and other use during non lunch and morning/afternoon tea times.

What do you think?

arun's picture

Not sure if you would class this as a "break out room" but one of the companies I worked for had a large section of one floor fitted out as a kitchen/lunchroom where people could go and prepare their lunches and sit in the corner and read a book or have a quite lunch meet with friends

A section of this area also had an indoor mini golf putting set and an indoor basketball hoop. A large screen TV was also included for good measure where you would find regulars converging to watch Jerry Springer. This area always seemed to be filled with activity.

I wanted to create a "chill out room" at my current place in an unused room and just have some bean bags etc where people could relax at lunch time or just have a coffee but we found a better use for the room and made it someones office instead.


itilimp's picture
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You forgot the punchbag ;)

MattJBeckwith's picture
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Ping pong. Everyone loves ping pong!

I have found that the best place to de-stress is outside... even if the weather's ugly. It's nice to get out doors and breathe some fresh air without the phone ringing and the e-mail reminder popping up.

XOLegato's picture

A playstation with a fun game like Guitar Hero, or a Nintendo Wii with "Wii sports" would work wonders for relaxation, I think. Then again, your employees might end up having too much fun, the Wii is addicting.


bflynn's picture

A few companies I've worked for had fun rooms. They were rarely used because nobody wanted to be seen as slacking off. I think it was a culture thing; the attitude was "If you have time to X, then you have time to bill another hour", where X was anything like eating or sleeping.

My suggestion - build it as a meeting room. Then, late on a non-Friday afternoon, have a hour or so meeting that does something fun - darts, X-Box, cards or something. You don't do Friday because people will be leaving for the weekend and hanging around work for mandated fun over the weekend isn't fun.

The rest of the time - use it as a group meeting room.


svdp's picture

Thanks for the suggestions guys. :) I probably should have mentioned that we have rostered start, finish and break times, and that games and whatnot are not permitted on people's PC's. Any consoles that are in our breakout room will be coming out of the social club, which is basically funded by our own wallets, so methinks a WII might be out of our budget :) but a second hand console with Mariokart or something might be good.

I'll keep thinking, thanks :)

XOLegato's picture

Well one of the reasons I suggested the Wii was that it not only has it's own new-fangled games, but it also can play any of 350+ Gamecube games (like Mariokart). I went to my local Gamestop a few weeks ago and picked up Splinter Cell, Timeplitters 2 (a ridiculously fun shooter), and Turok:Evolution for less than $15.....TOTAL. Mariokart: Double Dash and Super Smash Bros. Melee also remain two of the best party games ever.

I suppose you could just get a second-hand Gamecube to do the same thing... oh well.

Mark's picture
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My apologies for my delay.

I think it's a grand idea. I probably wouldn't fill it with a ping pong table ("everyone" does not like any one thing, regrettably ;-) ).

Be careful about cost. Just painting and a furniture change will send enough of a message. The more you spend/do, they higher your profile...

Again, I regret my absence.