Creating a positive company culture is a challenge that many senior managers face. With low unemployment rates, recruitment and retention of talent have moved to the top of the priority list. This means creating a safe and happy workplace for the team is now critical to business success.
Employees want to work in places where the environment is positive and where the work is rewarding, while forward-thinking employers know how important it is to provide an environment that supports the organisation’s goals and objectives. When both these values align, great company culture is possible. But how does food fit into this?
Interestingly, a recent survey to better understand the role of food in company culture discovered that over 1/3 of employees rank food as one of the most important office perks along with holiday entitlements and professional development.
Food is fuel for body and mind – it has the power to boost mood, impact productivity and efficiency, team dynamics and sales. Conversely, with no time or opportunity for nutritious and satisfying meals provided at the workplace, employees may be trying to get through the day without enough energy to be productive and creative. Hunger, as well as poor eating habits, can also have a negative effect on mood and morale. In taking a proactive approach to office wellness, businesses can ensure healthy and highly functioning staff by putting good food at the top of the menu. Here are some ideas on how this might work in practice.
1. Provide break time treats
Do you remember when water coolers started arriving in offices across the land? Whether intentional or not, it led to greater interaction and the low-key spreading of the company’s culture via a break and a chat by the water cooler. Of course, these days it’s not just fresh drinking water that’s provided free of charge; most offices offer tea and coffee as a minimum. Free snacks are an extra perk, and it’s surprising how well something as simple as a little mid-morning/afternoon treat will be received by the team.
Just make sure you offer healthy snacks that curb hunger without the damaging insulin spike delivered by simple sugars and processed white grains. Improve your office mood by keeping cakes and biscuits out of the kitchen and making whole grain, high fibre options including fresh fruit, nuts, protein/energy bars, wholegrain crackers or popcorn available instead.
2. Theme special events around food
Shared food experiences can be the magic ingredient you need in order to facilitate team building and bonding on a daily basis; it’s a natural way to connect co-workers socially and deepen relationships throughout the company. Why not use this insight to your advantage in an effort to strengthen your workplace culture?
Whether on a large, glitzy scale or as a small, intimate gathering, a catered event is a great opportunity for employees throughout the company to mix and mingle. You could celebrate small company successes by getting outside caterers in, and large ones with a no-expense-spared gala dinner. What about marking individual employee achievements with a team lunch at a favourite restaurant, hosting an annual Christmas breakfast at the office, or designing your company jollies or teambuilding events around a foodie theme?
Just be careful about offering alcoholic beverages, especially during working hours. An office party where drinks are flowing freely may be great for socialising on the night but is bound to affect the mood and productivity (not to mention attendance rates) in the office the following day.
3. Eat together with the team
Business culture comes from the top. The leadership team should demonstrate the company’s core values during work and social time and put healthy eating habits at the top of their list. Just make sure you switch off ‘boss’ behaviour at break times. Focus on being casual and authentic in your engagement with staff and co-workers while modelling the desirable aspects of your company’s culture.
Eating together as a team is a great way to shape beliefs and behaviours. A group setting has the advantage of building a sense of team between all those eating together. Lunching one-on-one has a different dynamic and offers a chance to establish a more personal relationship that directly influences how a team member observes and interprets your workplace culture.
4. Promote regular ‘potluck’ lunches
If you’re already eating together as a company, why not use this daily practice as a basis for getting to know each other better and deepening employee engagement around food? Could you perhaps share the cooking? Take it in turns to bring in a pre-prepared lunch for the whole team? Bring in dishes that showcase the cultural heritage of individual employees?
Food will become an essential part of the working day and an opportunity for social interaction while cementing the perception that the company values employee health. The only proviso should be that the food that is cooked/brought in must be healthy and nutritionally balanced. Greasy kebabs or burgers and chips should be a total no-no. Low-fat protein, either meat or vegetarian, is important for balancing blood sugar levels and keeping you satiated for longer, while lots of leafy greens or salads provide essential vitamins and can fight off depression.
5. Encourage foodbank collections or volunteering at a soup kitchen
Finally, why not integrate food into your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility work? Start a company-wide initiative to collect for a local food bank, with a list of items that are particularly in need, then assemble a group of volunteers to hand over the donations.
Alternatively, seek out a local soup kitchen and perhaps allow your staff time off to lend a helping hand to feed homeless people and others in need. Volunteers tend to be more in demand during the colder months, with Christmas the most popular time, but anytime is a good time to support a charitable cause. For the volunteers, serving food as a group creates a sense of team that is based on giving back to the community, and strengthens the bond between co-workers. Whatever campaign you come up with, make sure that the voluntary efforts of participating employees don’t go unrecognised.
To find out how Kafoodle are helping corporate caterers to encourage a healthy workplace culture, get in touch today or take a look at one of our case studies.
Author: Annie Button
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