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Want to improve your staff’s performance? Eat with them

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Want to lead a company as successful as Apple? Or be as inspiring as the CEO of Japan Airlines? Eat with your employees.

Research has consistently shown that professionals who eat together perform better together.

The logic behind this conclusion is simple. If social bonds and friendships are key to a positive work environment, then office meals simply provide the opportunity for those bonds to form or strengthen.

“Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work,” said Kevin Kniffin, visiting assistant professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

“From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces.”

In a new study by Cornell University, Kniffin and his team conducted interviews and surveys in a large city’s fire department, which included more than 50 firehouses.

The researchers asked the department’s 395 supervisors to rate on a scale of zero to 10 the performance of their platoon compared to other fire companies in which they’ve served.

The supervisors were also asked how often the platoon eats together in a typical four-day work week.

ALSO READ: Why lunch breaks are not just for eating

The platoons who ate together most often also got higher marks for their team performance. Conversely, the platoons that did not eat together got lower performance ratings.

Given the findings, organisations would do better to consider their expenditures on cafeterias as investments in employee performance, Kniffin added.

His suggestions are in line with the highlights of a recent survey by Mars Drinks, which concluded that a stocked fridge in the office can significantly help office culture.

Offering such perks has, indeed, become crucial today.

This is especially because not only do employees often compare how their office pantries stack up on public platforms, their engagement levels significantly drop when bosses rid them of such perks.

In fact, in the Cornell study, the researchers noted firefighters expressed a certain embarrassment when asked about firehouses where they didn’t eat together.

“It was basically a signal that something deeper was wrong with the way the group worked,” Kniffin said.

Perhaps its finally time for firms to follow the footsteps of firms such as Google, that pay special attention to providing “food experiences (to staff) that support them in being their best”.

Image: Shutterstock

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