Office lunch traditions can do a lot more than boost employee morale. SpareFoot, an online storage finder, hosts daily family-style lunches for their 100-person team. Every day, employees sit around a handful of long tables between 11:30am and 12:30pm to eat lunch together.
SpareFoot isn't the only company following the "families that eat together, stay together" mantra. This simple idea helps employes better communicate with each other, which in turn gives them a sense of camaraderie when working together. The better employees work with each other, the more productive they become.
Ben Waber, CEO of Sociometric Solutions, which analyzes workplace communication patterns, says a network of people need to develop their own forms of communication which each other, which makes conversation easy. This increases trust between coworkers, thus increasing efficiency.
To maximize coworker interaction during these lunches, size matters. The table size has a huge impact on how employees will interact with each other. Sociometic Solutions found that staff members who ate lunch at larger tables that seat 12 were 36% more likely to interact with those same coworkers later in the day. This is compared to those who sat at cafe style tables that only sit four.
“When you eat lunch with somebody, if they sit at the same table, again, not surprisingly, you’re much, much more likely to talk with them later in the week,” says Waber. “You develop this greater sense of how a company is doing, and you have this stronger network and it can have [a] gigantic effect.”
HowAboutWe, a social dating network, recently expanded their team to 91 employees and needed more space. Instead of working out of a single office, they are now spread out through several offices on the same floor. Lunch time has become an integral part of office life, as staffers get face-to-face downtime with each other.
Brian Schechter, co-founder of HowAboutWe, says weekly meals keep employees connected to each other and the company's overall mission statement.
"The difference between someone who understands what they are working toward and someone who doesn’t is really dramatic," he said. "Without the food and without the social lubrication that it creates, the experience of 'I don’t know what’s going on' would really amplify."
There's a reason why the family dinner has been a staple in so many homes and, just like a family, communication is key to a thriving business.