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Team Lunches: 7 Ideas and 7 Benefits for Your Company

As an employer, showing your team recognition and building a positive dynamic can be as easy as hosting office lunches. Approximately 62% of American workers eat lunch at their desks, which is linked to fatigue and health issues, but bringing employees together for lunch can positively affect your business and employees.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of team lunches and how to get started with easy office lunch ideas.

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Benefits of team lunches

1. Show appreciation for employees

Office lunches double as both a team-building activity and an opportunity to recognize and appreciate your employees. Regular team lunches are an attractive perk that shows employees they are consistently valued, and occasionally treating your teams to extra lunches can be a way to reward them for completing tough projects, landing an important sale or client or simply being an important part of your workplace culture.

2. Encourage communal workplace culture

Bringing employees together over lunch is a great way to support a healthy workplace culture, especially if teams don’t often get a chance to socialize during their regular workdays. Sitting down over a meal gives employees the opportunity to break down social barriers and organizational hierarchies with organic conversations, improving team connections and reinforcing positive communication in the workplace culture.

3. Increase productivity and motivation

Rewarding your employees with team lunch perks not only improves morale but can also help your employees be more productive and motivated at work. Approximately 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break, but working through lunch can have detrimental effects on physical and mental well-being and sometimes leads to burnout and lost productivity.

In contrast, implementing regular team lunches in your workplace can emphasize healthy eating habits and the importance of taking breaks. Since healthier employees are more creative and focused, spending money on team lunches can provide a great return on investment with boosted productivity and revenue.

Read more: 4 Ways to Measure Productivity (and Improve It)

4. Promote collaboration

Team lunches are a break from work, but employees surprisingly tend to shift conversations toward work topics. Team lunches can result in brainstorming sessions, effective decision-making and generally improved communication. Employees can learn more about their colleagues’ roles, projects and personalities through interdepartmental mingling, fostering strong teamwork and collaboration.

5. Recruit from a broader talent pool

The workforce is increasingly more concerned with employee benefits and workplace culture, which includes lunch programs. Implementing a consistent team lunch program can set you apart from other employers and make your business an ideal place to work, allowing you to recruit from a broader talent pool.

6. Improve retention

Stressful and negative workplace cultures are linked to employee disengagement, which in turn can lead to up to 37% more absenteeism and a 50% increase in voluntary turnover. In contrast, team lunches can contribute to a healthy workplace culture by fostering social connections and rewarding employees, and studies show that businesses with engaged teams see a 41% reduction in absenteeism and 59% less turnover.

7. Convenience

Team-building activities are an important part of workplace culture, but they can be costly and complicated to organize on a weekly basis. Weekly team lunches compensate for gaps between more formal team activities and are less disruptive to employee schedules than evening events or entire work days dedicated to team activities.

Team lunch ideas

Whether you’re hosting a weekly team lunch or recognizing employee accomplishments with an afternoon gathering over food, consider the following factors to ensure employee inclusion and smooth planning:

  • Dietary restrictions or preferences
  • Flexibility
  • Employee input
  • Cleanup and eco-friendly disposable dishes
  • Schedule and frequency
  • Remote or in-person offices

With these considerations in mind, here are a few ideas for team lunches:

1. Attend a food market or fair

Most employees won’t say no to free lunch, but visiting a food market or fair as a team can facilitate a more meaningful experience. Markets tend to feature local cuisine and more interesting flavors, serving as a point of conversation over lunch. You can also visit food truck festivals or hire a truck to visit your office for affordable and unique lunch options.

2. Include entertainment

To make team lunches more exciting and fun, add some entertainment to the afternoon.

Entertainment options can include going bowling, having a pizza party and hosting karaoke. If an employee has a recent birthday or another significant live event they’re comfortable sharing at work, make their celebration a part of lunch entertainment.

3. Get outside

Studies show that taking breaks in nature can increase well-being and job satisfaction. Encourage employees to have lunch in outdoor spaces such as nearby parks or patios. If your team is remote, get everyone to take lunch to their backyard, balcony or any other nearby outdoor area.

4. Pair with team-building activities

Office lunches are team-building on their own, but there’s no reason you can’t pair them with other team-building activities. Some easy team-building games and conversation starters include:

  • Office trivia
  • Music bingo
  • Two Truths and a Lie
  • Would You Rather?

4. Show and tell remote lunch

If some or all of your employees work remotely, organize a virtual team lunch. Arrange for employees to order a dish from their choice of restaurant, then ask each employee to describe what they chose to start conversations and encourage an interactive remote lunch experience.

Related: Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams

5. Cooking classes

Cooking classes allow employees to make their own lunches while also gaining culinary and team-building skills. Corporate cooking classes are usually beginner friendly, and many can be delivered either online or in person.

6. Give team lunches a theme

Themes are an effective way to keep office lunches fresh and exciting. Incorporate themes every few office lunches, and ask employees what themes they might be interested in for inspiration. Some theme ideas include:

  • Holidays
  • Global cuisine
  • Potlucks
  • Comfort foods

7. Host a lunch and learn

Lunch and learns are informal educational or training opportunities offered over lunch periods. Bring in an expert to discuss their field and offer insights on topics such as diversity, health and wellness or time management, or ask an employee to lead a workshop on a skill related to their job.

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