Many employees’ mornings are spent counting down the hours until their lunch break, only dispersed by intermittent trips to the break room to fill up on their life-saving cups of instant coffee. Although an office is a place of work, does that mean you shouldn’t provide any amenities to your workers that they could obtain themselves? Not so.
The days of cubicles and silence in the workplace are over. Now, the top companies like Google are creating open, welcoming offices that provide their employees with a space that’s fun to be in and provides them with some perks that make them excited to head in every day. You could start amping things up in your own workplace by offering food in your break room.
Food and Productivity
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast provides our brains and bodies with the nutrients we need to concentrate and fully utilize the energy we gained over the night. Breakfast should provide between 20 and 35 percent of your daily caloric allowance, and eaten within two hours of waking. For many workers, getting a balanced meal in the midst of getting ready and taking the kids to school isn’t an option, so they wind up coming to work on an empty stomach with nothing but some coffee to hold them over till lunch.
Providing healthy breakfast foods in the break room will give people a greater incentive to come to work in the morning, as well as give them the energy boost they need to concentrate on their jobs and be more productive.
Free Food at Work: Pros vs. Cons
Many leaders wonder whether or not offering free food will really motivate people to work harder. Well, holding the food over their heads like a prize certainly won’t get the job done, but offering a streamline of healthy foods in the break room that they can access at any time does pose some benefits that can result in greater comfort and boost work ethic.
Some employers may argue that employee happiness isn’t what ultimately matters in terms of a business’s success, and to an extent they’re right. At the end of the day, what matters is whether or not someone’s work is done and not how much they enjoyed doing it. However, employees who are unhappy and unfocused in the workplace will produce less work, which may not necessarily cause your company to plummet, but it may limit your overall ceiling.
The pros of food in the break room are easily identifiable; happier employees, better diets and potentially greater work turnaround. The cons are a bit more complicated. On the simpler side of the spectrum is the fiscal aspect of the matter. Providing free breakfasts and lunch will cost the company money. As we advance from here, we run into the risk of people perceiving the new freebies less as perks and more as bribes. An alternative to providing free food is to install used vending machines as a way to provide food options without costing your company exorbitant amounts of money.
Greg Bustin, author of Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture, says "It’s likely that those extras will be viewed by employees as superficial and not addressing the foundational issues of trust, honesty, respect, and achievement," he says. “Conversely, when a company’s culture is healthy, those extras can be a difference in driving productivity and maintaining retention."
So if you’re taking on food in the break room as a means of getting on workers’ good sides, it probably won’t work. If anything, it will only further aggravate their dissatisfaction in other areas that they feel aren’t being attended to, such as teamwork, workplace relations and effective interpersonal communication.
Free Food at Work: Yay or Nay?
Offering food in the break room is a nice perk, but it’s just that. Although it may encourage employees to work a bit harder and can make them feel better throughout the day, it should only be implemented if your office is already working on improving its weaknesses.
“These are the attributes that make these types of companies a ‘Best Places to Work’ company where people want to show up for their job and accomplish great things,” Bustin says. So if you’re wondering whether or not you should start providing food to your employees, ask yourself if their other needs are being satisfied first.