Of the many corporate benefits offered by employers – free food has to be the best tasting of the lot!
Free food at work has received a large amount of media attention in recent weeks, following the news that the IRS is considering taxing those employees lucky enough to receive this considerable corporate benefit. The trend for free food was started by Google, and spread quickly throughout the tech companies of Silicon Valley with Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and Zynga, all shortly following suit. These companies now offer their employees completely free food 24 hours a day from full meals to snacks and food for grazing. During the current economic climate, where most companies are seeking to make significant cut backs, this world of free food for all must seem unimaginable to most of the working population. So why is it that these companies choose to offer this delicious but somewhat lavish gift to their employees?
The benefits of providing this appetising offering to their valued employees are numerous. Food has become far more than just fuel to get workers through the day in the modern workplace. Food has become a cutting edge workplace tool which helps to encourage socialisation, aid collaboration, as well as increasing staff health, happiness, and morale. These positive impacts on employees help to aid staff retention, an expensive problem in the modern workplace.
Companies that choose to offer free food are seeking a competitive advantage over their rivals. The tech companies compete for a small and very highly skilled talent pool of individuals. The competition is fierce – so much so that in Silicon Valley the intense rivalry has become infamously known as ‘the War for Talent’. Free food has become a necessary benefit for companies hoping to attract the best talent on offer, after all, who doesn’t love a free lunch!?
Secondly, providing free food has given these companies greater control over what their employees eat. Google aims to provide their food provision in a manner that aids healthy food choices by employees. They seek to use a combination of psychology and behavioural science to actively encourage healthy food decisions including canteen layouts which make people walk past vegetables and proteins before getting to carbohydrates and puddings, as well as labelling all foods with nutritional advice and placing them on Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid. This benefits the employees but also has a number of positive impacts for the employer; it helps to reduce illness and healthcare costs as well as increasing workforce productivity and all through offering nutritious food!
The importance of food is central to these forward thinking organisations. Free food is used as a vital method of bringing together employees. The idea of using food ‘as glue’ between employees is a growing trend. This offers employees the opportunity to socialise, exchange ideas and engage, helping to boost creativity and productivity for the benefit of the company and employees alike.
The power of food should not be underestimated. It is my belief that it should be a key device used to drive business benefits within any forward thinking organisation and workplace, for the benefit of employees and employers alike. Whilst the offering of free food may not be economically feasible in many workplaces, it is important that organisations wake up to the important impacts and effects food can have on both morale, wellbeing and motivation as well as the behaviours such as collaboration that all companies are looking for.