How big a role do canteens play in making staff happy?

Most modern offices today, are well known for their efficient canteens that churn out fresh meals, desserts and drinks for their staff. In fact, for a long time Google was known to ensure that its employees are within 150 feet of food at all times.

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Have you come across job seekers applying for positions in organisations specifically because they offer good food? There is no dearth of swanky offices in our country today, but there are only a rare few that are known to pamper their workforce through their gastronomic offerings. Offices of Google, TCS, Flipkart and Facebook in India are counted among these. In fact, people joke about putting on weight on joining Google.

In today’s busy urban lives, it is a struggle for people to beat the traffic and reach office on time. Most professionals barely manage to gobble a sandwich or gulp a glass of milk before heading out to work. Not surprisingly, many are unable to carry home-made food with them to work to have at lunch time, despite being concerned about nutrition and dietary needs. But then not many offices today expect their employees to fret about their next meal either. That is why they offer canteens to ensure that their employees get fresh and warm food that is not just delicious but healthy too.

Most modern offices today, are well known for their efficient canteens that churn out fresh meals, desserts and drinks for their staff. In fact, for a long time Google was known to ensure that its employees are within 150 feet of food at all times, which explains its micro kitchens that offer beverages and snacks not far away from the employees. Those who ever happen to work late need not worry about dinner either.

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So why do organisations today focus so much on operating well-stocked canteens to fulfill the dietary requirements of their workers? Is it because they want to give employees more reasons to stay back at work?

No. It is because a well fed and hydrated workforce is happier and more productive. Let us look at some advantages of having canteens, water coolers, beverage vending machines and tuck boxes for employees at work.

Good health: Hydrated employees are healthier. They suffer less headaches, have better memory, and improved reflexes. Dehydration causes severe headaches and migraines, slow reactions and sluggishness. The choice is clear.

Happy atmosphere: Food and water have a direct effect on the mood of the employees. Nobody can work when hungry or thirsty. People who are sufficiently hydrated are less irritable and more pleasant. If everyone is well fed, hydrated and happy, the general atmosphere of the workplace is that of satisfaction and happiness. This has a positive effect on one and all.

High energy levels: Food is equal to energy. Hunger is equal to low energy levels. Low energy levels means dip in productivity. Again, the choice is clear. Well fed employees will always be high on energy, and all that energy when channelised into the work at hand will give good results.

Productivity: Coffee/snack breaks allow employees to get up from their chairs, stretch, refresh themselves, interact with others—especially those from other teams or departments— exchange ideas and return to work rejuvenated. Leaving the workstation for short breaks is all the more important today to keep the limbs and joints fit. It also ensures some time away from the computer/laptop screen, giving rest to the eyes.

Relaxation: Time away from the workstation means time to relax, destress and communicate. Such breaks can in a way keep depression at bay for many individuals who may be facing issues at home or at work. An employee who never leaves his desk will be noticed and encouraged to interact with others and make friends during such breaks. For those on the brink of depression, this may be the best way to avert a disaster waiting to happen.

Concentration and focus: An employee who has missed breakfast at home while leaving for work is naturally worried about his dietary requirements. An empty stomach often leads to acidity and gastric problems. If there are food options available at work, the employee need not worry about his meals at all, and focus more on work. Similarly, if a project requires an employee to stay back late, he will be more committed and focussed if he does not have to worry about dinner.

Not surprisingly, organisations today are keen to spend significant amounts per employee per day on food for the long-term good of the workforce and the organisation as a whole. Many provide bottles with the company logo for the employees to keep at their desks to ensure they are hydrated throughout the day. Canteens today stock green tea and nuts which are considered superfoods when it comes to productivity. Office canteens have helped to prevent anaemia, malnutrition and fatigue in workers, especially women. Whether all this delicious food is offered free of cost or against a nominal charge — which employees today are more than willing to pay— canteens do seem to have become an integral part of workplaces today and play a significant role in the health and well-being of the workforce.

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