Many organization tout the fact that they provide free lunches as a big perk to their employees. I've often thought of the role of this type of program and is the intent of the company to truly provide incentive for staff to work or is it a way to drive greater productivity due to shorter lunches or staff working at a desk?
Some of the benefits:
It increases collaboration
Providing meals is a great way to get people to talk to each other. Encouraging staff to enjoy their meals while they are hanging out in a lunch room is a great way to get them to chat with each other. Even if they aren't talking about work, they're talking. No earphones on and actually talking about things that happen in the world. A more connected team will work better.
It increases productivity
This has been something that has been proven to work: feeding employees can increase productivity by 20%. The theory makes sense. Feeding people will keep their minds sharper and focused on the task at hand instead of their growling belly. And if you feed people better quality food that is satisfying and good for you, they won't sink into food comas from the burger and fries they inhaled down the road.
It's a non-taxable benefit
This may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it's a smart perk to provide. Being non-taxable, it generally leaves people better off after taxes. For every dollar in non-taxable benefits, it’s much like receiving about $1.85 in pretax income (depending on the tax bracket, etc).
There are always concerns with feeding employees too. Cynics often look at these programs as a nefarious way that employers get their staff to stay at their desks and continue working. But the reality is that most people eat at work anyway, with only one third of workers take a lunch break away from their desk. So why not acknowledge the behaviour and provide people with the tools to eat better?
Overall, it's better that employees feed their staff. But if they are providing meals, they should just do a few simple things to make these programs work great:
Employers need to be mindful of providing a variety of food options and focusing on healthy, locally sourced food that is sustainable in nature. Simply feeding mass produced food is not good for their staff or the planet.
Employers need to focus on providing choice. At Feast, we use our technology to provide meal subsidy programs through our mobile or online ordering. Employers fund account credits and the employees can choose what meals they want to spend their money on. It's simple to administer for the employer and the employees get a feeling of choice in their meal decisions.
Gimme a break
Encourage people to leave the office. With meals provided, people may not feel like they should take the breaks they need to take. Get people outside, to go for a walk or eat on a park bench. People need to breaks in their day to refresh mentally. And breaks like these are often attributed to being able to be more focused, alert and have more creative thought.
So go ahead and feed people, but feed them well.