I love food. Therefore I love lunch. However, I've found that somehow I've developed the habit of either not eating lunch, or just not actually taking a break to do so. Am I alone? No. Some 13-20% of employees regularly eat at their desks or just don't take breaks. 

According to some experts, my personal trend is one that plagues many workers and is actually a detriment to a company in the long run:

"When workers skip a lunch break on a regular basis, they often don't realize that fatigue and burnout are creeping up on them until they wake up one day and 'suddenly' feel less enthusiastic about their jobs or businesses."

While some might argue that skipping lunch is a necessity, I've found that many employers have tried to make it easier to eat by providing lunch for hungry employees. Yahoo is said to spend up to $5000/employee each year on lunch to keep them happy and fed. Google is said to spend north of $70M each year on employee lunches and other meals.

One blogger says that providing lunch for employees helps staff get to know one another, add company loyalty, build great culture and gives a nice place to have a conversation that isn't necessarily about work.

The short answer to the question of whether employers should provide lunch for employees is a resounding YES. But it is important to recognize that providing lunch will not mean the same thing for every company – and shouldn't. Here are a few ideas on the variety of options available to help you assess your lunch provision levels:

The Benefits

  • Raised Employee Morale: You're giving your staff something they would have had to purchase otherwise – of course they'll be happier
  • Lunches = Raises: If you're paying for your staff's lunch, they are essentially receiving a small raise by not needing to buy lunch themselves
  • Employee Collaboration: Companies like Google use staff lunches to encourage employees to discuss problems and get to know one another better
  • Increased Time at Office: Without needing to hand out decrees from above, providing lunch for staff at the office will have the benefit of having them stick around more

The Frequency

  • Daily: Companies like Fog Creek Software provide daily lunches for all employees
  • Weekly: Other companies choose to provide lunch on a weekly basis, and choose to have a once-per-week meeting since everyone is already together
  • Holidays: If daily and weekly meals seem like a bit much, think about having a catered meal at holidays 

The Style

  • Cafeteria: Some companies spend a lot of money developing amazing cafeterias for their employees to eat in at the office
  • Catered: Other companies use services like ZeroCater to have it delivered
  • Ordered: Still yet other companies just order good to go and pick it up for their staff.

The Price

  • Free: If you factor $15/person/day for a meal, its like giving them a ~$4000 raise. While expensive, think of the joy it will bring employees.
  • Subsidized: If you're not comfortable footing the bill for the entire meal, consider offering subsidized meals employees can buy less expensively through you than they can one their own.

How does your company handle lunch for employees?


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