People function best when they drop the hyper-productivity mindset and take work breaks to eat together
hour of precious work time down the drain.
But this hyper-rationalizing perspective fails to account for the joyously complex, irrational nature of humans: We are an intensely social people formed out of the food-sharing cultural practices of old. time humans became humans. It was then that we evolved the brain capacity for spoken language. This created a peer-to-peer system to share knowledge about survival, about food: how to get it, how to prepare it, where to find it, etc. Finding (and eating) food became intensely social because of language.
Then came the agricultural revolution about 12,000 years ago. We stopped our erstwhile nomadic ways and settled down on the farm. We learned (together) how to more efficiently get our food through the planting and harvesting of crops. The collective food practices of agriculture created the first complex systems of human society.
Then the industrial revolution came. Food was taken out of the equation. Hydrocarbon and steam-powered technologies created the combustible engine. Smokestacks and fiery chimneys soon dotted city skylines. Raw materials like coal were commercialized, giving way to capitalism. It was the beginning of modern work. The purpose of the worker was to be kept busy. And for a little over 100 years, we’ve done just that: remained in a perpetual state of busyness (or business, as it was once spelled).
But as we’ve learned from the earlier revolutions, food-sharing is our history. We’re genetically and culturally programmed to eat together. No amount of digital bells and whistles will change this. The more we design our modern workplace to align with our history of food-sharing, the better off we are.
Shifts in marketplaces and employee mentality suggest a growing recognition that organizations function best when people drop the hyper-productivity mindset and take breaks to eat together.
“As a company, we are integrating new technology on a daily basis, but we still believe in the ritual of gathering for lunch and dinner at the table,” says Sarah Davis, president of Loblaw Co. Ltd. “Our research shows that we build better relationships with our coworkers when we take time to disconnect from technology and enjoy lunch together. What a simple solution to fostering better relationships and creating a happier workplace ... eating together just makes sense.”
Even Google, the techiest of big tech companies, believes in the benefits of eating together. Google’s AR/VR team is known for their quirky company rituals involving food. They don’t just break bread as a team. They bake it themselves - from scratch. “Eating together is an ingrained part of daily life at Google, whether that’s catching up over a coffee or sitting down to lunch as a group,” explains Sabrina Geremia, country manager, Google Canada. “Our food culture at Google is built around creating moments of connection that you just can’t get in a boardroom.”
Companies seeking competitive advantage would do well to heed the advice of President’s Choice to #EatTogether.
All employees, managers, executives and business owners with their eye on the latest innovations should think of this: Sometimes the best thing you can do for the company is to put down the tech and pick up a sandwich. Just remember to share the other half with a colleague.