Monday morning, 11 a.m.
“The IT’S-IT ice cream sandwiches have arrived!” I sang walking into the office with a big bag of vanilla, cappuccino, and mint flavored treats for the team to share.
Excitement rang throughout the office as we congregated in the kitchen—cheersing our ice creams and chatting about our weekends.
15 minutes later we were all back at our desks—feeling satisfied with a sugar high and the aftermath of good conversation.
It goes without saying that mealtime is a cherished practice throughout every country in the world.
From ancient Greek Spartans eating boiled pigs’ blood, pork, and vinegar, black soup to more avant-garde lunches in Sweden, such as dancing and not talking about work, sharing food and spending time together is how we build community and foster relationships.
But regardless of what your dining style is, personally or professionally, setting aside time to share a meal with your co-workers is important for a few reasons.
1) Lowers barriers
With busy schedules, sometimes it’s hard to get to know everyone on your team, especially if you’re part of a mid- to a large-size company. Full teams can be massive, so it can make getting to know everyone difficult.
Whether your team is large or small, organizing team lunches or dinners is essential because they lower barriers and help teammates feel more comfortable around each other. Often times, newer or less seasoned employees don’t get a ton of face time with VPs or higher-ups, so carving out a specific time and place for people to casually chat will encourage relationship building and create a cordial environment. And according to NPR’s podcast, Hidden Brain, eating the same food increases people’s trust and cooperation.
Even if your team isn’t huge, sometimes it’s daunting to ask a co-worker out to lunch who you don’t know very well, so incorporating scheduled lunches for the whole crew is a relaxed way to break the ice.
2) Reveals hidden quirks
Quirks are fun and they make us human. Another reason you should go out to meals with your team frequently is you get to know quirks that might not be so obvious in the day-to-day office setting. At JotForm’s weekly lunches, I’ve gotten to know my team on a personal level and I love it. I know their pets’ names, what kind of music they like, the activities they’re interested in, and more.
One of my favorite lunchtime memories was when we went to a restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and I learned that my supervisor, Chad, had a mild obsession with the “Pop-A-Shot” basketball arcade game. The restaurant had a Pop-A-Shot on site—we all played and had our own fair share of wins, losses, and smack talk. That was during my first month at JotForm, and for me, learning about my team in a casual environment was better than any onboarding activity.
3) Increases productivity
Sharing a meal with your team is great for boosting productivity. Working in San Francisco’s tech scene, productivity is held to a high standard. But contrary to common belief, productivity isn’t about getting the most done in the least amount of time. It’s producing well thought out, high-quality work and providing value to the team you’re on.
Productivity is delicate and needs to be cultivated. It needs to have equal parts of passion for what you do, desire to do well, and restoration from the work itself.
Eating a meal with co-workers is helpful for the restoration portion because you can be at work with them—building relationships—but not necessarily talking about anything work-related. If you’re in a time crunch, an activity like JotForm’s 15-minute IT’S-IT break is enough to de-stress and re-calibrate.
Restoration allows your brain to take a time out and relax. Breaks are essential because they prevent decision fatigue, increase productivity and creativity, and more. And when you break with your team over delicious food, you have a double win.
If you couldn’t tell already, our company, JotForm, is a huge proponent of meals with co-workers.
Even though our company is split into three locations: San Francisco, Ankara, and Izmir, all of our offices prioritize a company sponsored lunch every single week. We put it on our calendars so that we can plan our work around it—it’s that important that everyone attends. We mostly use our lunches to catch up on our personal lives, but sometimes we use it to brainstorm ideas, like when we launched JotForm Cards in February 2018.
Our CEO, Aytekin Tank, also leads by example and thinks lunch is a great time to share ideas. He’s made a good habit of taking all new hires out to lunch when they first join the team to officially welcome them on board.
Food is big for us at JotForm.
When we eat together, we thrive together.