Organizations have been aware for decades that the availability of food in the workplace does amazing things as it relates to both productivity and collaboration.
For the past 50 years companies tried to address food in the office by providing company cafeterias or scheduled catering orders. Neither of these solutions really thrilled anyone, and with today’s environment these solutions are starting to show their age.
According to The Future of Lunch, 62% of workers choose to eat alone at their desk. They’re busy, they are multi-tasking or maybe the just want to catch up on their social media. Is forcing these people to stand in line & artificially force interaction the best strategy?
Time also plays a role in employee satisfaction with company food offerings. Who said noon is the only time an employee can eat? What if I’d prefer breakfast? What if I work out at lunch? Or get hungry at 11? Or 2:35?
Finally, there is the issue of dietary restrictions or preferences. Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, no-carb, healthy or comfort food. It’s becoming more difficult for a central authority to dictate food without leaving a segment of the employee base feeling alienated and not considered.
What we’ve discovered in our office is that simply providing a food allowance is the best solution. The allowance is all through ClusterTruck of course, but what’s been fascinating to me is how we use it.
By way of level-set, we are about 25 people in our office consisting of Software Developers, Customer Service, Marketing, Sales, Accounting and HR.
Here are three behaviors that we have developed I think are interesting and are contributing to greater collaboration and high employee satisfaction.
People eat when they want. Rather than one meal a day coming to our office we have food being delivered up to 8 times a day. There is always a breakfast or two beginning at 9am. There can be up to 4 lunch deliveries at various times mid-day. Almost daily there is food coming in mid to late afternoon for people who ate breakfast and skipped normal lunchtime or had something else going on during lunch (workouts, meetings)
Ad hoc groups form up. Many meals are ordered as part of scheduled meetings among teams, but more often than not food is being shared by folks who wouldn’t normally have any reason to get together. Below is a screenshot from one of our breakfast orders today: (I should point out these screenshots are from our new Slack App. We are calling it ClusterTruck for Teams)
Chandra is our office manager, Janet is legal, Chris B is CEO, Chris P is Data Science, Kassie is in sales, Tylor is a developer and Allie is in Customer Service.
None of us set out to have breakfast together…all we had in common was the fact that we were hungry at the same time. Tyler is new on our team, so this group got to know him a little better. Allie is just back from vacation, so we were able to talk about that. Not everyone sat and ate together and that’s ok. Janet and Chandra both continued to work at their desks while they ate.
Some other examples:
Here are 4 folks on the development team ordering for a scheduled working lunch.
This is Tylor working late and ordering his food at nearly 6pm. He didn’t need a group he was just able to eat.
These orders happen because people eat when they are hungry. With the Slack App, anytime one teammate is hungry & placing an order, that person can alert a slack channel or the entire company just in case someone else might also be hungry. It’s only polite, and it does wonders for collaboration and team building.
- People get to eat what they want. Our office team ranges from Cross Fitters to Vegans (not mutually exclusive). We have people who only eat no meat 80% of the time but every once in a while, just NEED Buffalo Mac & Cheese or a Big Burrito.
Today people expect choices and it’s not unreasonable or expensive to give it to them. It’s no longer enough to put out a tray of hours-old-whatever for people to scoop and run and cafeterias seem like a quaint expensive relic.
It’s been really interesting to be on the front lines of the office food revolution. I hope this gives you something to consider in your own office.