Alex Jones, Head of Talent at Just Eat for Business, explains why shared meals can level the playing field in a new era of office dynamics.
Long before the days of lockdowns and pandemics, the office lunchtime consisted of long queues outside coffee shops and chaotic scrambling to the communal microwave. Then, as we all know, Covid-19 hit and such rituals were replaced with endless banana breads and Friday night fake-aways.
Tech giants and market leaders were ahead of the trend and had already adopted a strong office food culture. Take WeWork’s beer tap or Google’s endless snack selection as examples – these companies had an early understanding of how refreshments can bring people together. Our own Just Eat for Business study confirms this hypothesis, with 81% agreeing they are more likely to accept a job offer if the company provides free food as a work perk.
As we edge into a post-pandemic era, company leaders have a prime opportunity to adjust their office philosophy and cultivate a unified culture defined by equality and collaboration.
The transition to home-working saw the traditional office barriers broken down as we peered into one another’s homes during Zoom calls. Businesses looking to sustain an open structure can look to office gatherings centred around food to ensure its employees are fulfilled and a sense of togetherness is felt by all.
Indeed, the food itself often isn’t the main attraction. We’re not talking about Michelin stars here, just an opportunity for people to gather and form connections around something that feels personal. After all, food was a pivotal force for many during lockdown.
A 2020 report reiterated the benefits of a flatter hierarchy, “speed, flexibility, productivity, and empowerment.” The value that each of these factors bring to the profitability of a business is huge, and the idea that something as simple as a shared meal can be a driving force behind change is a wonderful concept.
Hello mental wellness
A heightened emphasis on the importance of nurturing mental health has been another important take-away from the pandemic. 60% of respondents in a study said they were spending more time on self-care in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
For many, the pandemic forced a slower pace of life and inspired ideas of how we can incorporate flexibility into our working lives. This is highlighted in a report by the Harvard Business Review that found that 96% of white-collared professionals say they need flexibility.
To succeed in the readjustment period, business leaders need to provide an authentic plan of action to incorporate wellbeing into the workplace and support their employees as they venture back into the office. Again, using meal-times as an opportunity to create a unified eating experience is a great way to do this.
A unified hybrid office culture
It is estimated that within two years, more than two in five employers (41 per cent) will have adopted a hybrid working model. This can be seen as a response to the high demand amongst workers for flexibility within the workplace. However, according to our own Just Eat for Business study, 2 out of 3 employees believe eating lunch together as a team develops a great work culture, showing an evident want to resume at least a level of pre-pandemic behaviour.
Simultaneous food delivery to office and remote workers can help fix this disparity. This is a unified eating experience acting as an equaliser by restoring communication within teams and creating a sense of equality amongst employees.