Invest in your employees with a breakroom makeover

Invest in Your Employees: Create a Hospitality Center

In this rushed and transactional business world, how can you, as employers, invest in your employees and make them feel that their office is their home-away-from home?

A good place to start is by upgrading the office break room to a hospitality center!

The break room is a place into and out of which employees rush to caffeinate and feast. Counters get coffee-stained, dishes get broken, and a lot of waste happens in the mayhem.

By taking a little extra time to think through the habits and needs of your employees, you can not only improve their experience in the break room, you can enhance their health and save the planet!

I recently made over an office kitchen at a local small business with the help of Staples brand products.


This break room wasn’t a big mess. And the employer is a generous one who provides many amenities to his employees.

Breakroom Before Makeover

But the cabinets and drawers were filled with mismatched and stashed items, the counters felt cluttered, and the recycling area and fridge tops were junky looking.

My goal was to enhance the environment and give the employees an experience of hospitality.


Vicki and Assistant Sorting Typical for my process, I emptied the space by type of item. Employees who were stopping by to fill up on coffee were surprised by how much stuff came out of that little space! The entire floor and even the adjacent hallway was covered with paper and ceramic goods, beverage supplies, food, and equipment!

Thankfully, the administrative assistant went through each box and bin with me after the macro sort. My essential sorting tool is my Staples’ banker’s boxes. Some items were broken or missing parts and could be tossed. We allocated other never-used items to charity. All “mystery” items went into a big “Lost and Found” box that she took to her desk. She sent out an email inviting employees to come claim any items that might be their castoffs before they were donated.

All remaining items had to be reloaded by type, and in this process I made over this space from a boring break room to a welcoming and hospitable community kitchen!


Hot Beverage Station

Beverage Station BeforeOk, so I admit. This was just plain fun.

Before I came, there was creamer and sugar, abandoned mugs, stir sticks in hula cups, and transient peanut butter hanging out on the counter. The toaster oven was smashed in with coffee urns. Everything just bled together on the countertop. And the cabinet right below it was a mish mash of items, some of which got lost in the deep cabinet.

My vision for this high traffic space – used multiple times per day per 25 employees –  was to create a center where employees would feel they were being treated. Plus, I wanted to keep all hot beverage items together and relocate unrelated items.

The first thing I did was to add a mirror on the blank wall behind this messy counter. People love to look at themselves and this simple touch broke up a boring wall and created a greater sense of intimacy in the space. I was shocked to learn that you can order almost anything on – I found the mirror I wanted and SO much more for not only the office but home as well!!

To break up the counter space, I used a tray that my husband made to gather all the hot drink items together.

Vicki Norris with Staples Mirror and tray

I then utilized a myriad of Staples’ Zigzag collection office products to bring continuity and an upgraded experience to coffee! I love using this collection all over the home and office because it’s hip and attractive. The white metal material lightens up the heavy feeling of the equipment on the counter.

I used the Zigzag pencil cups for stirrers, sugar packets, and Staples’ awesome line of Sustainable Earth compostable cutlery. I love that these utensils are not adding to the landfill and at the same time they’re keeping lunch-on-the-go easy!

I noticed that the employees were offered cold beverages in the company fridge, and adding some healthy snacks will keep brain power and morale high. The storage boxes from the Zigzag collection made my day as the home of hot chocolate mix and healthy snacks. (I hear the employees couldn’t believe their eyes when they spied these treats!)

Our fabulous serving tray was rounded out with honey, creamer, and a selection of tea. Who knew that a little effort and office supplies could make such an impact!

Beverage Tray with Staples Products

For those inevitable spills and drips, I added a paper towel holder from Staples and their line of Sustainable Earth biodegradable, small section paper towels. This not only put the wipe where the drips occur, it took care of messes in an earth friendly manner.

When I reloaded the cabinet below the coffee counter, I made sure to ONLY add items that related to hot drinks in order to create a contiguous “station” of similar items. I found some sturdy plastic bins at Staples that reminded me of the Zigzag collection so I used those to store extra coffee, tea, and beverage equipment and labeled the shelf space so users would know where to return the bins.

Beverage Cabinet Organized

Food Storage

Those plastic bins from Staples worked so well, I used them to makeover the employees’ food cabinet. It’s located in a hard to reach area that required leaning and reaching up high, so I used one of these plastic bins for breakfast items and one for lunch items. Spices went on the top shelf.

Food Storage Cabinet Before and After


The drawers were messy, so of course I couldn’t leave them this way. A big part of hospitality is simply “restoring order” and pruning out that which you don’t need. Furthermore, choosing ONLY one location for similar items (like paper goods) will prevent overbuying and is better stewardship.

Utensil Drawer Before and After

Dishes Reunited

Since there were two cabinets dedicated to ceramic dishes, I decided to reunite them into one space, freeing up one cabinet for another use. I had to run the dishwasher for this process to ensure all mugs were accounted for!

Dish Cabinets Before

Organized cabinet with dishes


Grab and Go Cabinet

Grab and Go CabinetWith one cabinet freed up, I was able to address a situation I observed in office habits. Since the owner of this business is very hospitable, there are always meetings happening in the conference rooms, sometimes a few different meetings at a time.

Creating one station for paper goods was my goal, to eliminate overbuying and lost items. I implemented a grab-and-go center with Staples’ Sustainable Earth paper plates and cups and tissues. Now, if employees are grabbing a bite at their desk or a coffee on their way out the door for a meeting, they can do so eco-consciously.

(I stored all extra paper goods for replenishment in the high cabinet over the microwave).

Paper products Staples Sustainable Earth

Recycle Center

Mismatched boxes and bins formed a makeshift recycle center in this break room. This oddball collection protruded into the high traffic floor space and looked less-than-lovely. I reclaimed the floor space by streamlining and upgrading the size of the bins to accommodate high volume use with Staples’ simple black plastic trash bins. I turned them to the long side to take up as little depth as possible and prominently labeled their sides.

Recycling Station Before and After

Organizing is so much more than allocating stuff to space. It’s about making room for what’s truly important in life. Now these employees will spend less time searching and more time convening and lingering for conversation. They’ll be better stewards as they reach for disposable items and be encouraged to recycle more. Finally, management won’t have to continue overbuying and stashing and instead they’ll be encouraged to take a little extra time to stock and style the space with pride. The experience of hospitality happens in the details. A company that makes a small investment in those details honors its employees (not just its visitors) with hospitality and will reap dividends of employee satisfaction and retention.

Breakroom Before and After

Invest in Your Employees Create a Hospitality Center






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