Why eating together is good for your team

Why eating together is good for your team

The business benefits of breaking bread

Great for team wellbeing and productivity, ditch the quick-snack-at-your-desk culture or daily migration to the local deli and put on a delicious spread to make everyone happy – and more productive. And with teams used to foraging from the fridge at home now back in the office, there’s no better time to get everyone connecting again over a great plate of food.

The workplace can be stressful. Managing new projects, new clients and new colleagues calls for a degree of emotional intelligence and regulation – both at personal and team dynamic level. And with so many of us working from home for over a year, this is not made easier when you consider the anxiety associated with returning to the office.

One of the most surprisingly easy and enjoyable ways to boost wellbeing and cut stress is getting everyone together for lunch.

The importance of self-care

According to author and psychologist Professor Paul Gilbert, humans function well when their three emotional states (namely drive, threat and soothing) are in balance.1Gilbert. P, 2019, The Compassionate Mind, Little Brown, London In a high pressure workplace, the drive and threat systems can get out of control, leading to burnout and high staff turnover.

Soothing and self-care are known to mitigate the threat system and encourage drive. So, if you want to get the best out of your team, getting everyone together to switch off, sit back and chill out over a meal is one way of including dedicated soothing time in the work week.

Getting outside

Getting outside is great for reducing anxiety and depression whilst improving mood and self esteem.2https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/ Nature connection on this level involves more than doing a power walk through the park, it means slowing right down and taking everything in. In good weather, this might mean a picnic or dedicated time under the trees in an urban green space.

Whether you’re a nature lover or not, the subtle, soothing power of birdsong, leaves and sky while you eat with your team will work wonders for relieving the stress of a heavy work week.

This elevates the simple picnic to a powerful but soothing way to keep your team happy. If you’re located in an out of town business park, why not take advantage of the open, landscaped areas. Or, if you’re in a more urban area, take the opportunity to find new unexplored green spaces.

Being human

Studies have also shown that positive interactions with the people around us boost our oxytocin levels and have a direct effect on the limbic system.3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045505/ Sitting around a table, away from the hubbub of the office, eating a relaxed lunch is the perfect way to spark and sustain these interactions. It’s a human thing – we’ve been doing it for a long time. 

You’ll also get to know your colleagues on another level, encouraging greater cohesion and understanding within the team. Who knows, being away from your monitor may allow your subconscious to work on a problem you’ve been dealing with for a while. A casual conversation might open up a new creative space, sparking fresh ideas. Think about the effect this might have across an entire department.

Simple tips for making it happen:

  • Set aside a space. It doesn’t have to be somewhere like a fancy restaurant around the corner – you could do a quick tidy in the breakout area, commandeer the conference room, or, if you’re on a campus or in a business centre, there may be outside space to take over for an hour or so.
  • Plan ahead and send out invitations or put it in the team planner.
  • Minimal fuss, nutrient rich and deliciously interesting, salad boxes are also a great option and there’s no reason why they can’t follow a theme. Popular choices from our menu include falafel mezze, Italian chicken and Asian noodle. Make sure you include options for vegetarians and vegans, so there’s something sustaining but appetising for everyone.
  • Note birthdays, cultural celebrations and anniversaries. If someone has a big milestone coming up, it’s a great excuse to get everyone together talking – away from their desks with a plateful of goodness in their hand.
  • For a special occasion or if you’re after a super-simple solution, get the caterers in. Here at Funnells Kitchen, we use local and seasonal produce to keep quality high and reduce food miles. We’re flexible, too, so if you tell us your ideas, we’ll come back with options that are just right for you and the team.

The important thing to remember is that it’s all about getting people away from their desks and breaking bread together – whether that’s in the conference room or under the trees. Encourage cohesion, balance emotional levels and have fun with great food.

If you’re as passionate about workforce wellbeing as we are about nutrition and catering excellence…

Featured photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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