Smart companies, such as Google and Facebook, are tapping into the power of food to encourage employees to be happier and more productive. Offering employees free food and drinks is a relatively inexpensive perk but can help a company attract and keep top talent, encourage employees to collaborate better, and elevate a company’s culture.
Read on to learn what research suggests about the power and limitations of offering food perks to employees. Then discover some fun ways to treat your employees to food and beverages on any budget.
We all love free food, but one group of workers respond especially well to this benefit. Millennials, who will make up 46 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, particularly appreciate snacks and other food perks at work. In one survey, about half of millennials said they could be lured to a new job by a company that offered better perks, including free snacks.
One thing’s clear: Food and drinks perks won’t mask an otherwise toxic work culture. Employees of all ages care about receiving a healthy compensation and benefits package, having career-advancement opportunities, receiving feedback about job performance, being heard, and having a healthy work-life balance. Food perks may even backfire if employees perceive them as a way to coax employees into skipping breaks or working exhausting hours. However, when a culture is otherwise positive and inclusive, free food can be a powerful way to elevate a company’s culture.
Happiness is a vague term, but research indicates employers should care about whether employees say they’re happy. Employee happiness is strongly correlated with engagement, a term used to describe the motivation of a company’s employees.
Shared meals may also fuel innovation. Google offers employees breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in various cafes and micro-kitchens, strategically located to encourage people in different departments to talk. Google hopes conversations spark ideas and lead to more collaboration.
However, there are a few caveats to offering free food at work. Breaks shouldn’t be an extension of work. If employees are forced to hang out with each other or talk about business during meals, they won’t get the recharging benefits of taking a break. They may even come back to work more fatigued.
Moreover, some employees may have disabilities, diets, or allergies that make sharing meals difficult. And rich or fattening office fare can make it hard for employees to stick to a healthy lifestyle or manage their weight. Some employees complain that free food has transformed the office into a landmine of temptations.
The best practice is to offer mostly healthy fare to those who want it and encourage employees to socialize with whomever they please during breaks.
Get Your Food On
Are you ready to offer your employees food as a perk? First, query employees about dietary restrictions and preferences, and accommodate them whenever possible. That way everyone can enjoy what you’re offering.
Try one of these ways to treat your employees:
Catered meals Want all of your employees to gather for regular meals or for a meeting or event? Offer a catered meal, and they will come. Having breakfast, lunch, or dinner delivered to your team, whether it’s every day, once a month, or on special occasions, is a sure way to make them feel appreciated. Moreover, a catered meal can make a mandatory meeting or a late day at the office far more appetizing.
Team cooking class Looking for a way to treat your employees to a fun event that builds morale and teamwork? Host a team cooking class in or out of the office. They’ll have fun, learn more about each other, and feel appreciated.
Coffee station If you’re looking to boost your employees’ health, happiness, and productivity, look no further than their coffee mugs. Most people love java, and mounting evidence suggests it’s a healthy beverage. Moreover, if you feel smarter after drinking a cup of joe, that may not be your imagination. Some studies indicate caffeine makes people more alert, focused, creative, and able to learn and recall facts. It also may have a mild antidepressant action. Outfit your team’s coffee station with a coffee grinder and some popular brewing devices, such as a drip coffeemaker, an espresso machine, a French press, and Melitta cones and filters. Stock a few different speciality roasts, including a decaffeinated option, as well as milk options for every diet.
Breakfast bar It’s common wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether or not breakfast reigns supreme, evidence suggests it’s important for health and performance. In one study, people who skipped breakfast more than three quarters of the time were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. Moreover, a healthy breakfast has been shown to help school children and middle-aged men be more productive. However, many of your employees probably go without the first meal of the day: Between 10 and 28 percent of people routinely skip it. Encourage your employees to fuel up before work by providing a healthy breakfast option, such as a cereal or yogurt bar stocked with fresh toppings.
Office happy hours Want your employees to enjoy being at the office so much they stick around after work on a Friday evening to socialize? Offer specialty beer and wine tasting happy hours. Employees who relax and raise a glass together may enjoy a special sense of camaraderie. Be sure to include a seltzer selection for non-drinkers.
When it comes to work, the path to happiness may just be the stomach. Food and drink perks can be an amazing way to help employees be happier, healthier, and more productive.
ZeroCater corporate catering and snacks services provide curated meals and snacks to companies for any office occasion. We partnered with a diverse range of local restaurants, caterers, and food trucks alongside a personalized selection of snacks, beverages, and kitchen supplies, all tailored to your teams’ tastes and dietary preferences. ZeroCater is currently available in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Washington D.C. and Chicago. More About ZeroCater
You’ve taken your first step toward getting delicious meals for your office. We'll contact you shortly to set-up a free consultation so we can learn more about your office’s tastes and preferences. In the meantime, learn more about the latest food trends on our blog.
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