Food Is the Way to an Employee’s Heart

2019-08-20T16:32:49+00:00October 19th, 2016|Workplace Design, Wellbeing, Productivity, Startup Culture|

Small companies are taking a page out the employee benefit playbook of tech companies by providing free drinks and snacks to employees. Silicon Valley has lots of dough to provide free food throughout the day —  including meals— but chances are that’s beyond your budget.  Luckily, you can design a program that meets your budget and is a good investment.

Did you know that companies that provide free food have happier employees compared with those who don’t? According to a survey conducted by Peapod, a grocery-delivery service, employee happiness levels were 67%  in companies that provide free food, versus 56% for those that don’t.

But it’s not just any food. It’s healthy food, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, low-calorie snacks. A vast majority of employees value healthy options, with 83% agreeing “having healthy and fresh snack options provided in the workplace is a huge perk.” A majority of employees (55%) are provided with free beverages, such as coffee, tea or hot cocoa. Far fewer (only 16%) are provided with free food in the form of snacks.  Perhaps it’s no surprise that millennials were nearly three times as likely to value the availability of in-office treats compared to those 45 and older.

Proving snacks and drinks gives people a structured break from work, and fosters connectivity and community among employees. Breaking bread together can have material payback on employee retention over time and can even attract employees. We know that when families dine together, it is better for families, so why not for your startup or small business?

Forget the old fashioned office pantry.

Today’s office kitchen is more like a lounge with lots of light. It’s not just a place you stash your food, warm it before eating, then dash, noted Jennifer Carpenter, of Jennifer Carpenter Architect, who designs workspaces for corporations and institutions. “It’s a place you want to hang out in and have a conversation.”

Consider providing food and drink as a way bring people together at work. They socialize and discuss the projects they’re working on, which can lead to real contributions. It can help build a powerful corporate culture of collaboration. 

Related: Why Free Food Isn’t Really About Food at All

Different strokes for different folks.

Not everyone likes to interact in the same way or may want to interact differently depending on the situation. That means it’s important to design spaces that support a variety of interactions.

“You can have different types of furniture including a proper table and chairs for two or several people to eat a meal, tables that pull up to a sofa for coffee and a snack or high bar tables with stools for a casual conversation,” said Carpenter. “Office designs are being inspired by the hospitality industry.”

It’s not all about work.

“You can encourage people to unplug by having spaces that don’t have power and data outlets.” When you do provide outlets, she cautions, make sure to protect them from spills. “You can have power and data outlets on the side, in panels that can be turned toward the floor or in a pop up module,” Carpenter said.

Quality matters.

If you don’t want people to grab coffee at the cafe down the street from your office, you better serve the best. “Some clients buy extremely expensive espresso machines to encourage employees to stay on the premises.”

Ordering food doesn’t have to be an added burden for someone on your team. You can hire out. “There are services that will run your food program for you,” said Carpenter. “They can design a program in which the company pays for all the food or ones in which employees share the cost.”

Providing food and drink is a relatively low-cost perk that can have a big impact on morale. It can help your startup small business attract and retain employees.

What will you offer?