Here's a repost of an article that I published on LinkedIn.
Everyone’s seen it before, the feeble attempts at using food to boost office morale: the doughnut drop in the office kitchen, the cookie cake for someone’s birthday, the “encouraged” happy hour. While these ideas aren’t bad in theory, in practice they are just pumping coworkers full of calories instead of conversation. Eating is one of the few things we all have to do every day, and if used correctly, it can be one of the most beneficial tools for facilitating office bonding. Here are some useful activities to consider next time you’re in line to get cupcakes for the next “office activity.”
Make a Potluck Lunch
This is one of the most affordable ways to get conversation started over a great meal. Craft a theme, have people sign up for a dish, and eat the meal together. Planning it over lunch encourages participation without eating into employee’s time off. Have two team members that never work together create the menu, and get the upper-level management fully participating to get the office excited about the event.
To involve the whole company without piling more planning on your plate, consider hiring an expert to create a little competition. Catering companies like Bold American Events plan and execute corporate bonding activities that are hands-on and fun. Their Iron Chef events create an arena for a cooking contest in just a couple of hours. Companies divide into teams, create a meal plan with one of the on-staff chefs, shop from a market place of groceries, and prepare the meal together. The meals are judged by a select panel, and then the teams are able to enjoy their success by eating their meals together.
Venture Out of the Office
Happy Hours can be great, but oftentimes old office friends will clump together. Consider signing up for a dinner through an at-home dinner party service likeEatWith. Strangers sign up and come together to dine at the home of a renowned chef or home cook. Have a few coworkers that don’t know each other well go together to mingle with strangers. The dinner will encourage them to unite for an out-of-the-box activity in a new way.
Food is a great platform on which to build company culture. However, it must be executed properly to ensure that your team is mingling instead of dining and dashing. Consider one of these activities next time you’re looking for a way to bring your work group together and reap (and eat!) the benefits.