As a manager, one of your most important responsibilities is to ensure that your employees are happy and engaged. Not just for the obvious reason – that you are a good person – but also because study after study has shown that engaged employees outperform less unengaged peers, and happy employees stay longer in their positions, both of which are beneficial to a company's bottom line.
Often, when benefits that can engage employees are mentioned food comes up. Offering employees any food at all automatically engages them as you are providing them with their most fundamental needs–nourishment.
The question is though; how do you use food to make your employees happier? The good news is that you do not have to engage a professional chef for the office or provide every meal of the day, and the benefits of a little sustenance may offer even more than you think. Here are some basic ideas.
Set Up Weekly Communal Meals
Arranging company wide meals on a weekly basis does a great more than just offer a free lunch. Such occasions foster bonding among employees, encourages greater trust between employees and supervisors and can improve collaboration and innovation within the company, as people talk more freely offer a lunch or dinner than they might in a formal meeting.
These meals do not have to be very formal; a buffet style offering is fine, and that will actually often encourage employees to talk and mingle more than a formal sit down meal would anyway. It also allows people to come and go as they please, avoiding any resentment some might feel about being 'forced' to give up their entire lunch hour.
Use Snacks to Foster Healthy Eating Habits
Unhealthy employees can have a significant negative impact on a company's bottom line, and one of the biggest health issues facing American employees in 2019 is still obesity. The workplace wellness programs that employers are being encouraged to offer are designed to address this issue (among others) and instead of just issuing advice by actually providing food that gets employees eating healthier can make these efforts even more effective.
Try offering healthy snacks like fruits and nuts to encourage your employees to eat well, rather than heading off to stock up on unhealthy junk food from the vending machine. But let them have input into the snacks they prefer, so that they actually eat them.
Offer Learning at Lunch
Studies have also demonstrated the benefits of ongoing employee education for companies large and small, and a concept called Lunch and Learn can be an excellent way to promote healthy eating, provide a valuable employee benefit and encourage learning at the same time.
Lunch and learns involve providing an educational talk during lunch. These can be centered around almost any topic, from how to prepare tasty vegetarian food to how to build a better sales script and you will find that an increasing number of speakers in many niches are offering to provide this service and you should not overlook tapping your own internal talent to speak as well.
Provide the Occasional Unhealthy Treat
Everyone likes to be recognized on their birthday – even if they claim they do not – and although the answers to the question of how do you use food to make your employees happier should usually involve offering healthy foods the occasional less than healthy treat can be useful too.
That means that yes, bring out the cupcakes or doughnuts for employee birthdays. The birthday person will truly appreciate the gesture and the rest of the staff will gain the little happiness boost that the occasional sweet treat brings, and they will remember who provided them with it!