Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why chickening out of lunch with colleagues might cost you a company culture

By Lauren Chalkley, Campaign Executive at A Million Ads

These articles have been written by the latest cohort of the Practice Makes UnPerfect programme – a course that helps people find and finesse their public voices.

When you think about food, what comes to mind?

A well-fed stomach? 

A tuna Nicoise salad from Pret? 

Your nan’s Sunday roast? 

I think about all those things, but food is so much bigger than that. Food is community, connection and commonality. 

I’m Lauren, and as well as being a Campaign Executive at A Million Ads, I’m also the proud owner of a food blog, that focuses on spreading my passion for cuisine through restaurant recommendations, exploring London’s hidden food spots and homemade recipes. I see food as a way of reuniting us, conversations can bring change, and that change can start with food.

Food is a massive part of who we are: we eat to survive and what we eat says a huge amount about ourselves. You might be plant-based, or pescatarian or really enjoy your meats, maybe when you think about certain food it takes you back to growing up, or hot dinners at school, or maybe you ate your way through a bad break-up… Food can be a crutch for us, to enjoy ourselves, to cry, celebrate, or to simply just smell, it can also mean reconnecting or creating new long-lasting relationships. 

Working from home has been wonderful for so many of us, and has become the norm. We’ve switched up traditional office outings for our comfy home setups. In the old 9-5 daily grind, we lived for our lunch breaks, a chance to gossip with work besties about last night’s episode of Love Island and explore many of London’s delicious food spots. The shocking thing is that many of us have become so accustomed to working from the comfort of our homes that we have forgotten the true benefits of socialising with colleagues in real life. 

The company Unboxed, based in London, has delved into the positive power that food can have in the workplace, having introduced “Linkers and Thinkers”: a lunch pairing rota that links up different members of the team each month to go for lunch. 

Along with initiatives such as “Linkers and Thinkers”, employers need to cultivate new ideas which will appeal to employees returning to the office. Below are just some ideas of how we might help create this sense of community in the workplace:

  • Different cultural themed lunches – allowing everyone to share good food which is a beloved tradition that unites cultures globally 
  • Monthly wine and cheese after work evenings – trying out different wines from different parts of the world brings that sense of community into the workplace again
  • Veggie/ Plant-based themed days – meat free mondays is a global movement that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for their health and the health of the planet. 

Ultimately, many of us nowadays are transitioning more into making healthier lifestyle choices. With 62% of Britons taking to opting for a healthier diet, it is important that employers move along with the trend and provide alternative healthier food choices inside the office. This was reinforced by a survey carried out by British Summer Fruits, which showed more than half of all surveyed thought their mood, productivity and stress levels would be enhanced if they were provided with healthy snacks, such as free fruit at work by their employers. We all perfected our authentic versions during the pandemic, with internet searches soaring by 525% throughout April 2020.  So let’s get our aprons on, bake the night before and bring our banana bread into the office in the morning instead! 

With 65% of remote workers not wanting to return back to the office,, it is essential that we try to incorporate some of these into our day to day routines, some of which we could definitely benefit from when working in the office. External client lunches have also been seen to have great benefits. Not only does this more personal approach generally lead to more client retention, it offers opportunity for a more casual style sales pitch.  

Nearly two-thirds of people working from home feel isolated or lonely at least sometimes and 17% do all the time.  As Guy Fieri once said ‘Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together’.