‘One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.’ – Luciano Pavarotti.
As we all ease out of the work from home scenario that the pandemic imposed on us, organizations around the world are trying to cope with the long-term implications of the changes that evolved in the work culture. While many still struggle with blurring boundaries that the WFH territory came with, there are also the struggles of assuming some work-life balance. Some organizations may have hit the ground running while others eased out of it. Many employees work overtime trying to prove themselves, but industry experts strongly recommend taking a break from the desk. A commissioned survey conducted by Censuswide in 2020 revealed that less than 17% of employees utilize their lunch break for lunch. Almost 49% of respondents to the survey said they eat alone, continuing to work during their lunchtime.
To lunch or not to lunch?
1. Dedicate some time for a quality lunch
It is imperative that organisations encourage their employees to actively dedicate some time for a quality lunch. The onus lies on the leaders to create the right psychological space in the organization as no employee should feel less productive or lazy for taking a break. In fact, employees should be encouraged to take a break. Having time for a quality lunch fosters productivity and idea generation. Across the board, businesses have begun to realize the importance of the workplace canteen. Adam Griffin, Director at JLL Foodservice Consulting says ‘The desire to improve workplace restaurants has taken off’ Google and Apple seem to have raised the bar for in-office eating. Many organizations are taking their lead. In Singapore, Umami Chefs is trying to get a step in the door with their gourmet offerings that tempt employees with their culinary art that is infused with nutritive value which focuses on gut health. Digestion and immunity are strong indicators of gut health and impacts productivity at all levels in an organisation. A good gut reflects balance, it helps absorb nutrients and adds fuel to our bodies. It is the foundation of our health. So, providing employees with time for a quality lunch is critical to the productivity and success of any organization.
“People who love to eat are always the best people” Julia Child
2. Taking time for lunch should be a norm within the Organization
For a long time, organisations glorified a working lunch or having a quick bite at the desk. The perception that people who did not take a break were more hardworking was popularized. In fact, studies have found that taking a break not just for a meal, but just the act of stepping away from one’s workspace has a significant impact on reducing stress and burnout. It is imperative that we foster a work culture that doesn’t equate overwork with productivity. 37% of respondents to a survey (Censuswide 2020) agreed that they worked harder after eating with their colleagues. To encourage team effectiveness, organizations could begin by normalizing lunch. In the same survey, over 80% of respondents expressed that they would like to have more opportunities to share a meal with their colleagues. Sharing a meal with co-workers from various departments enhances networking and inter-departmental relations. HR should be able to recognise the fact that there is also a general concern for healthy food and sustainable eating that is being reflected in several restaurants that have included plant-based offerings in their menus. In Singapore, Food Tech companies like Esseplore have leveraged the digital space to design gourmet food that’s healthy, tasty, gutsy and delivered efficiently. Workplace canteens are now foraging around for ideas to modernize their menus to keep up with brands like Umami Chefs and Gourmand by Esseplore Fine Catering, famous for their beautifully curated Gourmand Boxes for the busy executives, have designed menus specifically for workplace lunches. This new thought process of prioritising an employee’s healthy eating habits at work can be regarded as revolutionary considering in the past decade instant noodles became the symbol of workaholics not only in Singapore, but world over.
3. Make lunch time a vibe
Organizations must go out of their way to make lunchtime a vibe and reinforce the importance of taking a break. One way to ensure this is done is to limit meetings around the lunch hour. HR could also use this time to organize recurring lunch events to foster a cooperative environment where colleagues can communicate and engage with one another. A popular lunch event at organisations that actively seek to engage employees is a culture lunch. Here, employees bring a meal that is representative of their culture and share it with each other. This not only breaks the ice but also helps to build bridges of communication. With this energy, employees may engage in an exchange of ideas that could lead to a variety of innovative practices, processes, or products within the organisation. It is important to have leaders present at these events as lunchtime networking is beneficial in many ways and it helps employees to build relationships. 73% of office workers agreed that teams are happier and more productive after eating lunch together.(Censuswide 2020) Lunchtime networking could also be more effective in terms of employee turnout as it could be more convenient for those that find it difficult to network over dinners because of personal commitments. Large companies use these events to provide a great food offering to impress talent while smaller companies may recognise the need to bring more healthy options to the workspace. Technology at the workspace canteen, like offering cashless transactions or offering apps to employees so that they may pre-order a customized lunch can speed up the transaction process.
“The Tork survey also revealed that employees who take a lunch break on a daily basis feel more valued by their employer, and 81% of employees who take a daily lunch break have a strong desire to be an active member in their company.”
Time and time again mental health professionals and industry experts emphasize the importance of human connections within the organisation. Studies have shown a significant correlation between lunch break and employee engagement. Some organizations recognise the fact that the lunch space is more than just a canteen and have moved towards redesigning their space so that it is accessible and functional throughout the day. This flexibility offers for more flexible schedules so that employees don’t just have to step away only during lunch. Especially since there’s more than ever on the menu now! Foodtech companies are leveraging cutting-edge technology to deliver unique culinary experiences for corporate gatherings. Disrupting the food space with its highly competitive offering is Gourmand By Esseplore Fine Catering, a brand that provides ready-to-eat gourmet feasts. Now, more than ever it has become much easier for HR to woo and impress their pool of talent.
So, I think it’s time we picked up our chopsticks and moved ahead of the ‘To lunch or not to lunch’ quandary. Let’s eat Singapore!