The cafeteria is a staple of contemporary corporate office buildings, and providing free or low-cost meals to employees is a common perk, particularly in the tech sector. Of course, if employees are eating breakfast, lunch, and even dinner in the same building where they work, that means they’re not patronizing local shops and restaurants. With that in mind, local lawmakers in San Francisco are proposing an amendment to the city’s zoning code to curb the proliferation of office cafeterias and drive more traffic to downtown eateries, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
In an attempt to attract employees to local restaurants and businesses, Supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Aaron Peskin are co-sponsoring an ordinance that would ban “employee cafeterias” from new office buildings in the city. This comes as local retailers, particularly those downtown, complain of a drop in business as more companies offer their workers meals in private corporate cafeterias, Safaí said. …
An “employee cafeteria” is defined in the San Francisco health code as a space inside an office where employees are provided or sold tax-free food on a regular basis. These facilities are either operated by company employees or contractors. There are currently 51 such cafeterias around the city, Safaí said. The supervisors’ proposal would put the city at odds with the tech industry, which largely views free food as an essential perk to lure talent. …
At re:Work, Humanyze co-founder Ben Waber highlights an interesting finding from his research, that programmers at an online travel company who ate lunch in large groups were over 10 percent more productive than those who ate in small groups:
What was happening? A quick trip to the cafeteria revealed the answer. Tables by one set of doors had 4 seats while tables by the other set of doors had 12 seats. Even when controlling for demographic factors and other potential confounders, the table size effect remained. By eating in larger groups, these higher-performing lunch goers were building larger networks within the organization and research has shown that social network strength can influence performance. A simple decision to make all the lunch tables bigger led to performance improvements of over 10%.
We also gathered lots of insights around team “cohesiveness,” as measured by the amount of time teammates spent talking with one another. We found that more cohesive teams were generally less stressed than other teams and significantly less stressed after layoffs. We also found that giving out free beer on Fridays didn’t boost cohesion. We’re not against free beer, just don’t do it in the name of team cohesion.
There’s unfortunately no data available on how eating sad meals alone at your desk impacts team cohesiveness, but photos of it make for a pretty entertaining blog:
A randomized controlled trial recently published in the journal Health Affairs tested whether financial incentives helped obese employees of the University of Pennsylvania health system lose weight. As Michelle Andrews explains at TLNT, the incentive had no apparent effect whatsoever:
Participants were asked to lose 5 percent of their weight. Each was assigned to one of four study groups. The control group wasn’t offered any financial rewards. The three other groups were offered an incentive valued at $550. One group was told they would begin receiving health insurance premium discounts on a bi-weekly basis immediately after reaching their weight loss goal, while another was told they would receive bi-weekly premium adjustments the following year if they reached their goal. The final group was eligible for a daily lottery payment if they met their daily weight loss goal and weighed in the previous day.
At year’s end, no group had met the 5 percent weight-loss target. Participants’ average weight was virtually unchanged, whether or not they had a financial incentive to lose pounds. Some 19 percent of participants did meet the 5 percent target, but they weren’t concentrated in any particular group.
This is not the first piece of recent research to question the effectiveness of workplace wellness.