Why my favourite team building activity is a shared lunch

Many companies organise team building activities, and I’ve attended my share, everything from training courses to offsite games! Team lunches have a special place in my heart though.
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Before landing in the fun-filled-foodie-land that is You Chews, I spent a few years as a consultant at the well known software company, ThoughtWorks. Most of us spent our working weeks spread out across different projects on client sites, so every Friday the company would organise a weekly lunch so that we could come together, and spend time catching up with our friends and colleagues. I always left those Friday team lunches feeling happier and more engaged with the consultant community. Most weeks, I found myself meeting somebody new, putting a face to a name I’d seen on email, or getting a new idea from what somebody else was doing on their project. It was an investment in both us as employees, and promoting informal information sharing across the company.

Those lunches really helped us to be a stronger team, even when we weren’t in the same place – helping to foster better and open communication not just between us consultants, but also with the higher management.

Most of us end up spending more time with our colleagues than our families, so we might as well like those people or we’re going to be pretty miserable. If you’re forever hunched over your desk, how do you ever meet your new bestie? You go to your team lunch of course! It should be an important part of the schedule for all teams, and here’s a few reasons why.

Firstly, if you do it right and hold them regularly, it’s something for everybody to look forward to. Everybody’s got to eat at some point – when you’re so busy that you eat your lunch at your desk every day, a team lunch becomes a very welcome forced break! I was always rather partial to the fish and chip buffet, although since last month I think the You Chews Pulled Pork Roll lunch does just about top it.

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Secondly, there’s no hidden agenda. Sure, the company gets a return on its investment because we all feel a bit more warm and fuzzy towards them afterwards, and probably work a little bit harder; and of course it benefits them if everybody has better relationships with their colleagues; but they never stopped me when I was gossiping with my friends about what was going on with their projects to tell me that I was having too much fun. Surveys have shown that non-financial benefits and perks are far more powerful motivators than financial ones – a good feed makes us all feel appreciated, and those new relationships with colleagues we didn’t know before empowers us to do our jobs even better.

Personally, I don’t enjoy being told what to do – probably why I ended up in a start up – so the fact that lunches can be an optional team building activity means that I’m actually much more likely to go along! ThoughtWorks, and other companies I’ve worked in, also often organised “Brown Bags” or “Lunch and Learns” where people presented on something interesting while we munched away and learned. Offer free food AND learning, and you get a group of people who are not only actually motivated to be there, but they also have something to do with their hands so that they can’t just check out Facebook on their phones.

Lastly, it’s fun! Eating and bonding go together. People connect over food – that’s why we meet friends or dates for dinner or drinks, and sharing a meal brought us together and encouraged us to interact on a personal level. The managing director suddenly seems a lot more human when he’s got barbecue sauce on his shirt.

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So what are you waiting for? Oh, short on time and not sure what to order? Worried that you’ll get the wrong thing and upset the vegan, that the gluten free crowd will go hungry, or that they just plain won’t like it? We’ve got you covered – not only are we taste-testing all of the best local foodies (over team lunches, of course), we also make it easy for you to find and order. If you’re still not convinced, we’ll be bringing you interviews in our upcoming blogs from companies like Shoes of Prey who have three years of experience in team lunches to show you how it’s done …

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Thanks to Aundray Cheam for letting me use your awesome photo!

 

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