How bad can it be, you ask…well, here is a glimpse of what we eat on a regular day at work. But do not worry, this blog is definitely not about healthy habits. 🙂 If you were to walk into Vtiger on any given morning, flasks of hot Filter coffee, tea, and laughter are what will greet you. At 11 AM, it is the first break of the day, and people are eager to talk to each other. All sorts of topics fly around in quick succession – work issues, history, science, holidays, movies. You name it, we will have discussed it while consuming copious amounts of tea or coffee. It is our version of a water cooler gathering. Heard of water cooler gatherings?
It is a ‘phenomena where employees gather at water coolers. The Water Cooler Study found that staff members were both mentally and physically healthier after time spent at the water cooler…that gatherings around the water cooler raise staff wellbeing’. 1 The coffee is quickly followed by healthy snacks – cucumber, carrots, dry fruits and nuts, sprouts…which almost no one eats. No surprise there!! The terrace cafeteria – a haven for good food and conversations
And suddenly it is time for lunch. Do you know we get to eat 5-6 course South Indian vegetarian spread every day – roti, multiple curries, rice, sambhar, rasam, curd, papad, sweet, phew…but then what we actually look forward to are the Chicken kebabs and Chicken biriyani that are served twice a week. I assure you the attendance goes up on those days.I like lunch breaks. The terrace cafeteria brings people of different teams and levels together – new hires, managers, programmers, the sales team, etc. You stop by their tables and chit-chat for a few minutes – mostly about which dish is the best in the buffet. Surprisingly, amidst all the din, you also get to network and connect. These informal conversations are great for collaborating with other teams. The atmosphere is laid back, no one is in a hurry, and people are open to discussions.
Most importantly, your target is tied to the table – they can’t avoid you when you say, you want to talk to them, :). I can easily compare the cafeteria to the Vtiger One View feature, gathering and sharing information from different sources across the organization. Some of our best ideas have originated from this relaxed atmosphere. By 4 PM, you are bloated and in a food-induced stupor. The AC does not help. The smart ones in the office are playing Table Tennis or have gone for a walk. Some of us sit and make desultory conversations as if the words will make the carbs disappear.
When you think you have eaten too much for the day, it is time for coffee and tea, yet again. I refuse but how can I stay disciplined when the smells of hot Masala Puri come wafting towards me. I follow it, like Mowgli following Ka , thinking I can complete this blog on another day.
So why is food important in a workplace? I believe the love for food is universal. It helps break down organization silos and brings everyone together. It relaxes people – conversations and ideas flow freely when you are sharing food and drinks. It is probably hardwired into us, from the days our cavemen ancestors would gather around the fire to share food and stories. For many like me, it eliminates the need to cook food at home and carry it to the office. It is one less thing to do on a busy work day. According to the Allegra Health and Wellness Summit, 27% of employees say access to healthy food and drink is the number-one way their workplace could support them. 2 There are other benefits too.
- Food made available at work increases productivity. You don’t have to worry about what to eat and the budget. You focus on work when your basic needs are met.
- Helps with employee retention Believe it or not- free food is one of the things that makes employees stay at their current jobs.
- Food builds relationships. With employees mingling regularly, they connect emotionally with their co-workers and the organization.
- Food attracts talent. Expectations of those joining the workforce today are different. They look for benefits and a good work environment. Good food can be an enticer for new hires.
- Food binds us. Take Vtiger’s case. India is a vast country with many languages, cultures, festivals, music, etc. As the Indian saying goes, Kos-kos par badle paani, chaar kos par baani. It means the languages spoken in India change every few kilometers, just like the taste of the water. The workforce in Vtiger comes from across the country and our tastes are varied but it is food that brings us together. We seem to put our prejudices, negativity, and stress behind us when we come to the table.
A survey of over 1,000 full-time workers conducted by Peapod, an online grocer, found that more than half of people (56%) are “extremely” or “very happy” at their current jobs. However, that number jumps to 67% for employees who have free food at work.3 A bowlful of red juicy watermelon just arrived! If that can’t refresh you on a sultry afternoon, nothing can. I start writing again, after being infused with energy and inspiration.
—————————————————————————————————————————————— Reference 1 > The Water Cooler Study 2 > Allegra Health and Wellness Summit 3 > Peapod Survey