Why coffee is the key to great feedback

A great coffee machine can lead to a workplace where employees are energised and potential problems are flagged before they become issues – and it’s got nothing to do with caffeine.

While Australian workers are some of the happiest in the world, greater employee engagement remains a challenge for HR and office managers around the country.

One of the key hurdles in meeting that challenge is simply getting honest and reliable feedback outside of a formal setting.

Some employees can feel uncomfortable giving honest and direct feedback within a formal setting.

For many, there’s just something off putting about a highly standardised feedback session or needing to send an email to an HR boss to discuss an issue.

That reluctance means you’re not getting the feedback you need to make the working environment a great one for everybody and improve performance across the board.

Increasingly, HR professionals are realising the importance of informal spaces where people feel safe to speak their mind honestly when it comes to understanding the people in their organisation.

READ: Top 5 feedback failures and how to fix them

Enter the humble bean

To penetrate this barrier and reduce this gap, businesses can focus on creating a break room that encourages conversation, fosters communication, and promotes collaboration.

By creating a relaxing, informal environment that employees can enjoy, all businesses can make sure that their employees feel more at home and are more comfortable sharing valuable information that could benefit everybody.

Break room conversations can be the key to identifying what your employees feel happy about and the things that they would like to change.

As an added bonus, breaks have been shown to improve work performance as well.

Once upon a time this function would have been fulfilled by the humble water cooler, but Australians are increasingly looking to coffee for refreshment.

So for business owners who want to break through the communication barrier and find out the true feelings of their employees, the coffee machine, and a cosy, comfortable break room could be the way to do it.

How to learn from your employees

What can businesses learn from casual office chit-chat?

The more your employees talk to one another, discuss their work, and share their experiences, the more open and inclusive your office will be.

As an employer, you want your employees to feel comfortable sharing their problems with each other – and hopefully with you.

A problem shared is a problem halved, and once an employee realises they’re not alone, they’ll feel more comfortable approaching management with their issue.

Giving your employees the opportunity to relax and engage with one another can help develop strong relationships and loyalty.

READ: Timely feedback leads to better performance

This may even help the company in future as they would have the knowledge that employees from different teams can work well together.

The key to it all is having a space where employees can relax, and have some fun while encouraging honest conversation.

Want to get started on your own break room?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create a space employees actively want to visit, rather than it being a place where they only go for refreshments. Comfy sofas, large cushions, and other soft furnishings can help.
  • Make sure the break room has a good coffee machine. Consider a coffee machine that provides options to suit a range of tastes so there’s something for everyone.
  • Choose colours wisely. Consider orange hues which are said to encourage feelings of happiness, purples which are associated with creativity, and blue which is a calming colour.

While a well-designed break room can be an asset to your business and a powerful management tool, you shouldn’t lose sight of its primary purpose: to provide your employees with a relaxing place to sit and enjoy each other’s company and share their feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Sometimes you can learn much more from your employees over a cup of coffee and idle chit-chat than you would in a one-on-one formal meeting behind closed doors.