With COVID-19 restrictions relaxing all around the country, employers are eager to get people back into the office, and some are using food to do it, reports the Boston Globe. An uptick in catering orders at restaurants in areas mostly surrounded by office buildings indicates that some employers recognize the power of free food. They are absolutely correct.
Some of us (surely it’s not just me?) have not, and probably will never, lose our excitement about free food. It started as far back as grade school, when you could earn a pizza party for your class by reading books, and continued through college, where I’d choose which on-campus events to attend based on whether there would be snacks there. As an adult I take full advantage of the Costco samples that line the aisles. Food draws me in every time. I am not ashamed. Office managers of the world, take note.
For those that work in a typical office setting, a minimum of 40 hours a week is spent in the office. That’s a significant portion of our waking lives. And because, depending on your commute, you might spend two of your three daily meals at work, breakfast and lunch must be planned accordingly.
Every day, the same questions: Should I bring my food with me or buy it near the office? If I bring food, what travels well? Will I be able to heat something up or is the microwave out of order? Am I headed anywhere after work where I don’t want to be carting my dirty lunch dishes around? If I buy something, what’s my budget? Is today the day I splurge on one of the neighborhood’s $15 salads or do I have to stick to Walgreens salad sandwiches?
Though commuting can be a hassle, throughout the pandemic I missed working in an office every day for a few reasons, one of which was the frequent opportunities for free food. (I already told you, I am not ashamed.) Perhaps it was someone’s birthday, or a catered meeting was taking place, or some other department hit its quarterly goals—whatever the reason, knowing I wouldn’t have to pack a lunch or spend any money to feed myself that day felt good.
Two years into the pandemic, getting people to want to return to the office full-time is a hard sell considering that many employees are being forced to return to a commuter lifestyle when they’ve already proven that they can do the same work from the comfort of home. Free breakfast, catered lunches, and actual happy hour events that encourage us to spend time with our coworkers could bring back that little spark of joy in office life and incentivize people to commute once more.
Free food, by the way, is just one small perk that employers can and should offer. By no means should free food replace other, more crucial benefits. It’s just one small but important way to show employees they are valued.