Office meals are earning a line in the operating budgets of more and more companies and startups because it encourages cross-team communication and collaboration.
The benefits of such initiatives reach beyond time savings to loyalty and company pride, stemming from a sense of feeling valued. As if that wasn’t enough, on-site free food encourages collaboration.
That not-so-hidden benefit of building team rapport makes office meals an experience, not just a break. Colleagues from different desks and various teams converge and talk. Sometimes this leads to collaboration, but at the very least it maintains a sense of humanity amidst an often technology-driven work environment.  

High performance mealtimes

Shared meals are an approachable team-building activity to fit into the Tetris-like complexity of numerous schedules.
Kevin Kniffin of Cornell University believes that high performance teams are achieved by encouraging them to eat together. His study focused on one of the highest performance teams there is – firemen.
In his findings, he noted that, “The communal firehouse dinner is a tradition that has spawned a near mythology (along with a raft of firehouse-themed cookbooks). The firefighters reported that eating together is a central component of keeping their teams operating effectively.”
Here at HQ, we share meals together regularly, sometimes planned, but often spontaneous. Ten minutes talking over fresh coffee or a bowl of steaming Irish oatmeal sparks ideas and strengthens the bonds that help us be the high performance team we are.

Breaking bread

Just as the family Sunday dinner is a pinnacle of a healthy and connected home life, shared meals in the workplace build strong collaborative relationships among employees.
The recent white paper from Seamless about fostering unique corporate culture echoed that, “By all accounts, sharing a meal and breaking bread with others is one of the most basic social experiences.” The act of sharing a table and talking while nourishing yourself creates a special bond.
Spotlighting workplaces offering free food Harvard Business Review (September 2013) noted that, “It’s impossible to feel siloed in environments like these.” Knowing this, it makes complete sense that companies have devoted more resources to feeding the brains behind the operation and encouraging cohesiveness.

Community & collaboration

The Harvard Business Review (December 2015) notes, “Although serendipity plays a role in collaboration, devoting space, time, and resources to communal eating may be more effective.”
That dedication to creating and maintaining a healthy work environment begins at the top and often breaks down the invisible barriers between departments to encourage communication and new ideas.
Our own experience with Hackathon involved numerous meals as teams planned and strategized. The emphasis on community and collaboration is backed with effective office design and thoughtful meal planning.
Even something so simple as sharing an afternoon snack of popcorn can trigger the same result.
From offices in the Silicon Valley to workshops in the North Pole to the HQ here in Cork, Ireland, there is no doubt that carefully selected food options at communal tables boost company morale and help build a stronger sense of community.
Researchers and employees alike agree that high-performance teams communicate with one another, and when better to do that than when breaking bread and sharing a meal together?
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