A simple seltzer machine installed at the Waltham, Massachusetts office of InkHouse, a public relations firm, boosted morale and encouraged a fresh sense of community. “It helps employees be more excited about coming to work,” InkHouse co-founder Beth Monaghan told reporters. “People just love it.”
This may come as little surprise to most of you. I mean, who doesn’t like free food? According to a recent survey conducted by Peapod, a grocery-delivery service, employees were found to be happier in office buildings that offered free food compared to employees who still experience the woes of buying lunch with their own hard-earned moola.
Peapod’s study involved one thousand full-time office employees. While 56 percent stated they were “extremely” to “very” happy with their jobs, the data leaped to 67 percent when free food was on the table in company kitchens. Amazingly, only 16 percent of the employees surveyed received free food in the workplace. Free snacks may also be the tipping point for some prospective candidates. Before signing a contract of employment, 48 percent of respondents said they would weigh up the company perks, like free food.
With the rise of millennial-fueled start-ups and high-energy tech companies, it is no wonder free food keeps employees happy. Freshly pressed juice, Greek yogurt, granola, and in some cases, beer are on the menu gratis at work. This may become a new company culture that the more traditional corporate world will need to adopt.
Danielle Mahoney, director of human resources at Appeagle, a New Jersey based software company, told reporters, “It shows a personal investment and that need to make sure that they’re happy here and they have everything they need to do a good job.” Appeagle boasts an employee average age of 31 years old.
What are the health benefits of free food at work? With obesity and unhealthy food choices steadily rising in America, what message does this send? At the end of the day, individual employees choose what and where they want to eat, whether it’s free food in the employee lounge or a burger at the McDonald’s down the block.
In a healthy alternative twist, employees who have access to free food at work are making smarter health choices. Peapod found a growing trend in the orders they are filling since their first corporate clients in 1996. Peapod’s most popular items were once soda, but things have changed. They still fill company kitchens with soda; however, food choices now include fruit of all shapes and sizes.
A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management discusses the benefits of workplace interventions in relation to obesity and other weight-associated chronic diseases. The study compiled several case studies and found, “Workplace dietary interventions are generally effective, especially fruit and vegetable interventions.”
As long as free food equates to healthy food, it may improve overall physical and mental health. Having free snacks available, like yogurt or fruit, could turn the tables on obesity, since afternoon and evening cravings may be quelled by a snack or two. Many new-wave companies also have a gym in the building or offer free gym memberships, which can boost employee fitness levels. Giving out healthy post-workout snacks can add to the overall well-being of employees.
The mental aspect behind free office snacks is also relevant. It can foster a sense of community among employees as they sit down for a quick snack and a bit of office gossip. Maura McCormick of Campaign Monitor, a San Francisco based marketing company commented in previous reports, “Everyone comes in and sits at the tables and eats lunch together.” Campaign Monitor also has Friday happy hour at the office.
What do you think about free food in the company lounge?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.