The challenges of the modern workplace—recruiting employees, decreasing turnover, improving communication and collaboration, and fostering culture to name just a few—never end. Yet one simple essential can improve each: food.
Whether you’re hiring, brainstorming, welcoming new team members, or simply adding motivation to a regular day, here are six ways food can create a better workplace with more engaged, productive employees.
- Conduct interviews over lunch
Eating together can be a great way to understand a person. That’s why lunch can be key to your hiring process. Before you offer a job to a promising interviewee, invite them to lunch at a restaurant or in the office with team members. How someone functions at a meal can give you insights into how they might operate at work day to day, so ask yourself the following questions:
- What basic manners such as chewing with their mouth closed or saying please and thank you do they demonstrate?
- Do they engage in conversation easily? Are they asking questions about you and the company or are they checking their phone constantly? This may be an indicator of how they will be with coworkers or customers.
- If out at a restaurant, how do they interact with restaurant staff? Are they kind or demanding? Friendly or condescending?
- Do they have a hard time making a decision? Were they quick to order or indecisive? Did they request lots of changes or substitutions that aren’t related to food allergies or sensitivities?
- Cater lunch on a new hire’s first day
A first day is full of paperwork and logistics. Sharing a meal on site allows the team to get to know their new colleague and helps the new hire feel welcome and accepted as part of an organization that values its employees.Tips:
- Coordinate with the new hire’s team to set up or decorate the meal area together.
- Find out what the new hire likes to eat, and choose your catering menu accordingly.
- Cater on-site instead of going out. It helps the new hire get to know the workplace better.
- Use lunch as an opportunity to introduce team members or other people in the company to the new hire.
- Replace traditional meetings with a catered meeting
Is it time for a lengthy all-hands meeting? Catering lunch at the office is also a good tool for big meetings. Plus, being on-site prevents distractions—and potential eavesdropping.Tips:
- Work with reliable caterers you trust to show up on time and do the job right.
- Learn your team’s likes, dislikes, and dietary restrictions (an email survey can help).
- Box lunches are an alternative to the buffet line setup and can be customized for each employee, especially if your office is short on space. If you choose a buffet, set it up in a different part of the room to minimize disruption.
- Give team members the table space they need to take notes and eat.
- Arrange furniture so everyone faces whoever runs the meeting.
- Schedule the meeting around an appropriate lunch time. Either start lunch and the meeting at the same time, or use lunchtime as a refreshing break.
- Plan a themed brainstorming session
Big ideas need good eats. When you set up a brainstorming session to tackle a new project or engage in some strategic planning, food engages, motivates, and reinvigorates staff, especially during longer sessions.Tips:
- Standing can encourage people to be more creative in meetings. Either have a standing meeting (which can help speed things along), or ask people to stand whenever they speak.
- Tie in food with the meeting theme. Planning your market expansion into Japan? Bring in sushi or a catered Japanese breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a big meal. Healthy snacks can bump up productivity and brainpower for the big brainstorm.
- Vote with snacks. Give each person in the meeting an equal number of pieces of food or snacks. As people generate ideas, have each person place a piece of food in a bowl to match the idea they think has the most merit.
- Celebrate an employee’s birthday with their favorite meal or treat
Birthdays, work anniversaries, or team milestones are natural opportunities to incorporate food into the workplace. Even small gestures can be motivating reminders that the company values an employee and their contribution to the workplace, and that can help improve retention and decrease turnover.Tips:
- To ensure consistency and prevent hurt feelings, establish a company policy on acknowledging birthdays and other milestones.
- Some employees may prefer a quieter acknowledgment. Check with employees first before springing a party on them.
- Consider what else you need when serving food. Simple treats such as cupcakes are easy to order in quantity and don’t require cutting or utensils.
- If you have a big workplace or small budget, or just want to minimize workday disruption, consider a regular monthly event to celebrate milestones for everyone in that month.
- Give the employee a gift card to a favorite restaurant, cafe, coffee shop, etc.
- Use events to have employees highlight each other’s contributions and accomplishments.
- Provide employees with a daily meal or snack
In a survey of 1,000 full-time office workers, 56% of employees said they are “extremely” or “very” happy with their current job. When employees have access to free food, that number jumps to 67%. Other research suggests included meals at work can boost company morale and productivity.Tips:
- Use this as an opportunity to encourage employee wellness by offering clean, healthy foods that leave everyone feeling energized and productive rather than weighed down and sleepy.
- Plan in-office cooking events to encourage collaboration.
- Stock your fridge and pantry with minimally processed snack foods that can keep employees’ energy levels up without a lot of prep or cooking.
- Keep track of what gets eaten and what spoils so you can reduce food waste.
- Make sure to note any allergies or intolerances when ordering snacks and meals.
Tasty ways to cook up a better workday
Food is a powerful and simple way to increase motivation, team cohesion, and productivity. Not to mention, it helps make team members feel valued and taken care of. Use food to enhance your hiring process, employee retention, and meeting quality. Food can be a great way to create a better workplace—one bite at a time.