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The role food can play in binding teams together at work. Your experiences?..

(22 Posts)
FoodBlog Sat 10-Feb-18 07:57:33

I recently wrote an article on my blog about the role food can play in binding teams together. This is especially the case in the increasingly-pressured NHS, where the sharing of food in clinical teams is a real expression of mutual support, and an important way to build morale.

Just wondering about your own experiences of food at work. What do you and colleagues bring in to share? How do such rituals make a difference in your own workplace?..

(Btw, if you're interested in the original article, you can find it on )

Many thanks,

flugelhorn3 Sat 10-Feb-18 11:50:36

I work in quite a large, open plan office so you can often go a few days without seeing anyone, but if you bring in a homemade cake and leave it on the snack table or in the kitchen, everyone gathers around and chats to each other. There is definitely a role for food in office team building and camaraderie, and it doesn't have to be unhealthy either - we also get free fruit on a Tuesday morning which creates a bit of a buzz in the kitchen. Not sure how helpful that is, but I enjoyed reading your blog!

Gwenhwyfar Sat 10-Feb-18 11:54:52

I hate it when people bring in cake and other unhealthy food. Keep them for really special occasions please.

FoodBlog Sat 10-Feb-18 18:22:26

Thanks for the feedback! I agree that "too much cake" can bring its own issues! We're lucky that our clinic nurse has an allotment, and she regularly provides some fresh fruit and veg for the team. (Marrows, anyone?!) Either way, the main point is how the sharing of food, however it's done, can help bring the team together and sustain morale!

Gwenhwyfar Sat 10-Feb-18 19:55:26

Marrow's not really something you can tuck into at your desk.
If you must share food, why not have a pot luck lunch where everyone brings something in to share. Could be from their home country/region if you have a lot of non-locals. People should only bring enough food for 1 though - they have a tendency to bring enough for everyone leaving you with far too much.

BrassicaBabe Sat 10-Feb-18 20:48:17

No one brings food into our office. But we all down tool to eat breakfast together. Even if that's just a cup of coffee in the canteen. Then lunch is strictly 12. Heaven help any international co-worker who sets up 12pm cond call.!

FoodBlog Sun 11-Feb-18 07:09:42

Yes, I think the marrow is more for take home - especially given the size of our nurse's prize specimens! A bring-in a dish is a great idea - we've done that a couple of times, but you've reminded me we can do it more..

I like the idea of the team breakfasts, not to mention carving out the noon communal lunch get-together. Protected time to down tools is so important!

AdultHumanFemale Sun 11-Feb-18 07:35:47

I love eating (as opposed to grabbing a coffee in the staff room) with my colleagues. The conversation shifts from 'shop' to our real lives and we get a chance to connect in a more meaningful way. This in turn fosters stronger relationships and more enjoyable day to day working. But then again, I really love my colleagues. Not sure how it would play if we didn't get on.

Wigeon Sun 11-Feb-18 07:42:31

Nice blog post. Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking about this exact issue. My whole work has recently moved offices. The old office was open plan, but the team I’m in (about 25 people) had a room to ourselves. People often brought in chocolates, cake (often if it’s your birthday, you bring in cake), treats from whenever they went on holiday, occasionally fruit!), and put them on the top of a particular cabinet. Managers (including me!) sometimes brought in “thank you flapjacks” or other things, if there had been a particular team success. For everyone to share. It did bond the team and there was always some kind of snack going.

Then we moved offices. The new building has huge open plan spaces on each floor, with about 100 desks in each area. It’s all 100% hot decking, so although teams are generally located in vague areas, you’re often sitting next to different people. And the bringing-in-of-food as a cement to team camaraderie and morale has dropped significantly - because if you put food on top of the cabinet area, no one knows it’s from you, and it could be eaten by any team at all shock, not just your team! Occasionally I do still see a packed of biscuits, or tub of Celebrations, but I don’t know if they are from MY team and so I don’t eat them. I see you (OP) are a mental health worker - not sure what this says about the psychology of giving and receiving, but it’s probably not pretty...

OTOH, one team seems to have instituted “Thursday 4pm drinks”, and you see therm gathered around the biscuit area, with snacks and wine glasses and having a chat. Not sure I love this new tradition - no way I want to be drinking actually in the office, and we have such flexible working patterns that it’s seldom everyone is around at a particular time.

So, despite the many nice things about the new building (eg fewer mice, more daylight), I do mourn the fact that the changed environment has had a direct affect on the use of food as team building material...

pippitysqueakity Sun 11-Feb-18 07:49:53

Just be aware food can divide as well as unite and some platters can be seen as excluding.
I do not feel like this, but was a witness to a dear friend’s disciplinary over this very thing. She never brought food to the office again.

MincemeatTart Sun 11-Feb-18 07:55:27

We do birthday cake at team meetings (which is most months). We are mainly homeworkers so it’s an important time when we get together.
Some people have arrangements where they do a jointnpacked lunch with each bringing something to share.
We do produce swaps as well but mainly in the autumn when there is plenty of orchard fruits etc.
We also encourage people to meet up with others for coffee/lunch to reduce the sense of isolation.

Wigeon Sun 11-Feb-18 08:02:11

pippity - ah yes, that reminds me of a small team I was in where two members of the team were diagnosed as type 2 diabetic, so we had to immediately change the nature of snacks so there weren’t piles of sweets and sugary cakes taunting them. Then there was the “diabetic-friendly” Great British Bake Off competition we held, where one team member (one of the diabetic colleagues) just omitted the sugar entirely from their recipe - at least we bonded over how disgusting the ensuing result was...!

PlanNumber Sun 11-Feb-18 08:20:16

This is done loads at our place. We never have a meeting without someone "treating" us to junk food. I am in several meetings a day and it feels rude not to accept the kind gifts. I wish they'd think of something else.

I take fruit but people think I'm eccentric grin

FoodBlog Sun 11-Feb-18 10:17:30

Thanks all for sharing your experiences. Really interesting to hear!

I like the note that time invested in sharing food can mean time to get to know colleagues properly. And that people do value this.

Also interesting reflection that it's important to consider what types of foods should be brought in, and the need to have some sensitivity around this.

SellFridges Sun 11-Feb-18 10:20:23

I work in employee engagement. The simplest and easiest way to win hearts, and eventually minds, is through the provision of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

SellFridges Sun 11-Feb-18 10:20:57

Bacon sandwiches also work. Hash brown sandwiches for the veggies.

TellsEveryoneRealFacts Sun 11-Feb-18 10:24:15

I used to run a community garden that provided alternative provision for teenagers from the local PRU.

they started off not liking this and that - mostly all vegetables, not liking spices, not liking curries [they were quite racist in so many ways].

Every day one would help cook the lunch, one would pay the table, one would get the drinks out, one would do the washing up after - we all ate together, we used the table to discuss issues of the day, news stories [ I used to bring a paper in to make paper pots whilst they were getting ready for the day, even though they all said they didn't like news or politics or couldn't read, without the pressure they all used to pick up on pertinent stories that they glanced at giving us the opportunity to bring hot topics into the discussion].

When they left us, they all ate vegetables, they could all make bread, could all cook, could all use cutlery [some had never been taught] all knew their chopping skills, could ferment cabbage, were pouring my sweet chilli sauce all over their food. The most popular meal was a lentil dhal curry with rice by the end.

FoodBlog Sun 11-Feb-18 15:22:15

Amazing to hear about the impact of the community garden on those teenagers! Thank you..

(And when push comes to shove, doughnuts always work too..!)

TellsEveryoneRealFacts Sun 11-Feb-18 15:25:35

No doughnuts on our community garden. We would bring in veg, tell them not to touch it and would come back to them munching on the celery.

Gwenhwyfar Mon 12-Feb-18 00:20:16

SellFridges - and the people on diets who can't resist because it's free and you're sticking it in their faces?

SellFridges Mon 12-Feb-18 21:39:16

Gwen They could choose from the fruit that is always on offer.

But I work in a chocolate factory. So really they (and I, as I am on a diet) are used to it. Doughnuts and bacon sandwiches make a nice, optional, change.

Gwenhwyfar Mon 12-Feb-18 22:02:29

"Gwen They could choose from the fruit that is always on offer. "

Oh come on. Who's going to choose the fruit over the doughnuts (ok, I know a minority will, but it's never going to happen for me)?

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