WHY EATING WITH OTHERS MATTERS
When considering the need for collaboration, creativity and teamwork in today’s work environment, eating alone at your desk doesn’t make sense.
If the goal is to share ideas and increase productivity, why are we actively engaging in activities that do just the opposite? If the dinner table can act as a gathering place at home, why wouldn’t we work to equip our offices with the same kind of unifying space?
The “kitchen table” not only makes a great metaphor for work and performance, but is the place that promotes innovation, engagement, a better employee experience and creativity.
We all know the importance of gathering around the family dinner table. According to The Atlantic, “the dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of the day”.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
Unfortunately, eating with others at work doesn’t hold the same kind of significance for many people.
Research has shown that only 1 in 5 people step away from their desks for a meal during the workday. And while it may seem harmless to grab a quick bite at your desk through the lunch hour, creativity suffers, productivity lags, and the sense of belonging among coworkers can slowly erode if it becomes a habit.
We are seeing an explosion in Co-working offices and companies that provide these locations. In addition, these Co-working sites typically have a community kitchen, a kitchen table. They are designed with the idea of “casual collisions” of “breaking bread together”.
Companies like Google and Pixar have used the idea of “casual collisions” to design their workspaces in a way that promotes spontaneous, random discussions among employees.
In fact, Google intentionally designed their New York City campus so that no part of the office was more than 150 feet from food. Whether in a restaurant, kitchen or cafeteria, team members are encouraged to collaborate and share ideas in common gathering places.
Research conducted by Cornell University found a direct link between sharing meals together and higher performing teams in a fire department in a large US city.
A typical firehouse has a kitchen, but it’s the responsibility of the firefighters to stock the kitchen and cook meals. Without any official mention of roles and responsibilities, these firefighters have adopted meal planning, cooking, eating together and cleaning up into their firehouse culture.
Firefighters reported that eating together makes them feel like a family; strengthening the bond between coworkers in a way that was lacking from other activities throughout the day.
Further research found an undeniable positive correlation between eating together and higher team performance. The skills that underlie simple meal planning—cooperation, communication and collaboration—show up through performance on the job.
HOW CAN YOU APPLY THESE FINDINGS?
Research has shown that eating meals together can lead to higher performing teams and improve the culture of your workplace. So how do you begin to apply these findings to your office?
Take Team-Building to the Kitchen. Schedule a team building activity with a focus around food.
Encourage Employees to Eat Meals Together. There are several ways to encourage employees to eat meals together. Be mindful of how the culture of your company may be unintentionally keeping employees glued to their seats.
Simple Solutions. Many leaders today are searching for that silver-bullet solution that will solve their company performance problems, but maybe the answers are much simpler. Though it’s often overlooked, cooking and eating together as a team can help foster engagement, innovation, creativity, and ultimately help your entire team perform better on the job.
TS Wellness is a corporate health and wellness consultancy that provides onsite team building activities utilizing the “kitchen table”.
We work with leadership teams, Boards of Directors, and Project Teams to focus on what’s important and how to leverage the concept of the kitchen table for increased team performance, innovation, and creativity.