Humans are social animals, yet in many office spaces, eating lunch at your desk alone is the norm. It is possible with some jobs, to go to the office, work all day and go home without having said a single word verbally to anyone there.
When this goes on for very long, it tends to result in an office space where the employees don’t really know or have strong bonds with each other. It also encourages the scenario where the company has a high changeover of employees since the emotional connection that creates loyalty to their organization is just not there.
The Work “Family Dinner”
One of the easiest and most effective ways to bring a sense of “team” and “family” to the workplace is incorporating together time with food. Just like family dinners, communal lunches can create strong bonds. Revelations on home life and personal food preferences (which are very often cultural in origin) help us find commonalities with each other and forge new experiences with each other.
As interpersonal relationships develop through shared social time together, we each gain a deeper understanding of a co-worker’s inner workings and communication needs and that in turn builds skills to work together on professional, work-based projects.
Even if it is not possible to each lunch with the whole office space on a daily basis, it is a good idea to have them on a regular basis.
Creative Examples for Incorporating Food
Here are some ideas for how to use food as a team unifier:
- A regular lunch OUT sponsored by the manager.
- A regular lunch IN sponsored by the manager (group order from Chipotle or whatever people can agree on).
- Lunch at a designated time for the whole group. At the cafeteria/or common room.
- A potluck day.
- A turn list for bringing in donuts, or a group meal.
What About Working Lunches?
A popular thing many office spaces do, which I personally do not like… is utilizing a brown bag lunch/working lunch. They sound like a good idea, in that people theoretically save time by eating and working at the same time, but they don’t really work well in my experience.
What typically seems to end up happening… is some people forget to bring food and one person is trying to eat while everyone else is waiting on them to finish chewing to answer their question. The pressure to eat quickly, take notes/operate a computer, and talk at the same time is not pleasurable or time efficient. For many persons, it is also embarrassing to have people watch you chew, or to be the person watching someone else chew.
For eating food to be a bonding experience, it needs to be a pleasurable experience.
Additional Benefits of Focusing on Food in the Workplace…
Relationship building is not the only benefit to shared mealtimes; surveys indicate that employees:
- Tend to make healthier food selections when eating with others.
- Feel more valued and appreciated when company provided food is in the office space.
- Would be more likely to accept a job offer with an occasional free lunch.
- Would eat with coworkers if the food was provided.
What Do You Think?
Does your office use food to bring your people together? What do you like or dislike about it? What do you think about brown bag/working lunches?
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