These days you’d be hard pressed to find a workplace without some sort of food perk - whether that’s simply a fridge to store your food in, a fully stocked pantry, or daily three-course catering services. It goes without saying that this can be an expensive endeavor, regardless of whether you’re Google or a neighbourhood mom and pop shop.
So, other than avoiding the dreaded “hangry” coworker, why are companies spending money on providing their employees free food?
The pessimists might suggest that free food is simply a ploy to get employees to stay in the office and work for longer, without actually paying them anything extra. However, there are two sides to every coin, and in this case it’s a much more optimistic view: happy employees are good employees.
Let’s take Google as an example. It seems all the rumours about their vast supply of free food are true (you can check out some mouth-watering examples here). But, there’s more to it than just a perk to employees. Food sources are strategically placed between different teams to push them to interact, which places Cofounder Sergey Brin’s comment that “no one should be more than 200 feet away from food” into context. Their motive, based on the sociologist Ronald Burt’s research, is that food bridges the gap between different groups of people, which provides the groundwork for innovative ideas to flourish.
Not only is innovation improved with the provision of free food, but there’s also a case for increased productivity. Studies have shown that happier employees are generally more engaged and consequently, they are more productive. TechnoGym, based in Cesena, Italy, believes that in order to be productive you need to focus on physical and mental well-being. This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary idea, but as a company, they have gone the extra mile to ensure their employees have access to free (practically free at least, employees just have to contribute one euro per meal), healthy food, as well as a 2 hour lunch break. In fact, giving their employees more time away from work has made them more productive.
Other big name companies, think Pixar or Dropbox, have similar attitudes to providing free food: not only is food the way to someone’s heart, but it is also the way to someone’s productivity.
Some simple math (if someone like me who did Maths studies can work this out, I’m sure anyone can) proves this. Let’s say the average lunch break, if employees are leaving the office, is an hour; then we’re talking about 250 hours per year that employees are out of the office.
But of course, some of us are more prone to “cabin fever” than others, so we need that hour to get out of the office, get some fresh air in a different environment around different people. So staying in the office every day may not be ideal, but staying in once a week for free food isn’t a large order.
It goes without saying that food isn’t the only way to increase productivity. Simple things, such as encouraging employees or recognizing their efforts, can go a long way in showing that both their work, and them as individuals, are valued by the company. But still, free food never hurt.
Of course, not all of us have the budget that Google has to spend on food. But there are other options available, such as ordering food from a neighbouring restaurant (which foodpanda has simplified with its new corporate account) or going out for a weekly team lunch.
Need some help finding places to take out your employees? No worries! We’ve put together a quick list of some of our favourite corporate dining options around the region:
- VC Cafe in Manila
- The Happy Roots in Singapore
- No Black Tie in Kuala Lumpur
- Hause Rooftop in Jakarta