Five Reasons to Provide Lunch for Your Employees
Of all the perks at work you can dish out to your staff, lunch is one of the best and most affordable. Not only does it increase happiness and productivity (goodbye, afternoon slump) but since those Silicon Valley powerhouses introduced their fancy campus cafeterias, good food has become a serious way to draw and retain talent. Suddenly, the humble lunch is a key employee recruitment tool with a phenomenal return on investment. Whether you’re a start-up or Fortune 500 company, here are five delicious reasons why you should treat your team to lunch.
1. Attract & retain talent: Keep them hungry for more
Free lunch has been singled out as a top company perk by employees, over and above executive frills like massage, games rooms and yoga classes. It’s well known that millennials, in particular, look beyond the salary to consider all elements of compensation when weighing the costs and benefits of a job offer.
Lunch is a sought-after attraction, but it should also be part of your employee retention program. One huge appeal to existing employees of having a delicious lunch provided at work, aside from the yummy goodness and variety, is that it helps offset their personal expenses. It also saves a surprising amount of time in the morning preparing lunch, which means they can head into work earlier or hit the snooze button for an extra ten minutes.
Punch above your weight
It’s true that not all businesses can compete with the tech giants and install a bells-and-whistles restaurant in the office, but companies of any size can shine in the lunch arena by working with a catering partner who will cook delicious food on- or off-site without blowing the budget.
We’re not talking soggy sandwiches either. Think build-your-own pho, or jerk chicken with pulled jackfruit and Caribbean rice, a burger bar or brisket cannellini and a vibrant farmer’s market salad. All fresh, all creative, and more than a match for anything on the menu at Silicon Valley. As employee retention tips go, this is one of the tastiest ways to improve the work environment.
2. Productivity: Proper breaks and good food boost performance
People continue to grab lunch at their desk despite everything we’re told about the productivity benefits of regular breaks. In North America, employees are encouraged to put in long hours, and indeed, we continue to be one of the world’s most productive countries. Yet, according to a Washington Post report in 2014, when you take a closer look at the yield on an hourly basis, we fall behind our counterparts in France, Germany, Russia, Greece, South Korea, and Mexico.
Moreover, when staff avoids taking time to properly refuel, re-energize and engage with colleagues you’re likely to see more frequent incidents of burnout, as well as a nosedive in performance.
However, when you invest in an exciting, healthy lunch that staff can share in a communal space, or take out if they prefer, you’re encouraging a healthy culture that supports community, health, and wellbeing. Exciting new tastes and smells and time for relaxed conversation mean that people top up their energy reserves, lower stress levels, and return to work invigorated.
3. Health & wellness: Fuel your team, fuel your business
It’s no secret that healthy employees cost you less with fewer days off and lower premiums on their health insurance. It also makes sense that fit and happy people make for an optimally productive workplace.
Certainly, it’s not the place for corporates to dictate what people eat or how often they work out, and nor should it be. However, when you have a chance to positively influence your team, to support their health and wellness (even convert a few committed fast food fans into realizing that good food is tasty food) with an exciting, healthy lunch then it can only be a win-win for everyone.
4. Team bonding: Food as a shared experience
Human beings are social animals. We thrive in environments where we feel accepted, stimulated and understood, where we’re part of a well-functioning team. Anthropologists say that sharing food is uniquely human. We’re the only species to sit down face to face and converse over the table, which signals friendship, trust, and closeness. Some research even suggests that sharing a meal triggers little hits of dopamine in the brain.
If sharing food is social glue, it makes sense to provide your team with a lunch that nurtures body and mind, shared in a way that encourages relaxed interactions between everyone, from interns to management. It’s a great way to spread a little joy, facilitate communications and promote job satisfaction. In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to produce uncommon results.”
5. Align with corporate social responsibilities: Putting your people first
Any well-round Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program puts employee health and well-being at its core. The simple reason being that if you don’t take care of your employees, everything else will eventually fall apart.
Let’s revisit that earlier point about employee burnout. We live in an era where people are encouraged to work long hours and pass up on precious vacation time with family. Overworking and workaholism are becoming increasingly common problems. We accept that laying on a healthy lunch every day isn’t the key to solving those issues per se, but encouraging a culture that values balance, time out and staff wellbeing is an excellent place to start.
Many companies have wide-reaching community programs that are, without question, hugely valuable. However, the health and wellness of staff is a reflection of wider social issues so it’s important to remember that one of the most powerful ways to impact on society is to take great care of your employees and what they eat.
Nourish your business from the inside out
When you look more closely, lunch is more than just fuel, it’s a shared experience that bonds people together, it’s inspirational, it’s a chance to disengage from work so that you return refreshed and more relaxed. Its appeal is wide-ranging, but many employees love it simply because it makes the workplace more human. When it comes to perks at work, providing your team with a healthy, delicious lunch is one of the smartest, most cost-effective staff retention strategies around.