Food is an essential part of daily lives. It gives us the nutrition and energy we need to function everyday. Around the dinner table at home, 47 percent of U.S. American parents say they don’t eat with their families as much as they did while growing up, according to a recent study. When families do eat together, 49 percent say it’s only for a short time because of distractions or busy schedules.
To many cultures around the world, many believe eating together is a time to bond with family and put away distractions. In fact, Italy has the most families eating together almost everyday, according to the World Family Map, followed by Mexico and Germany.  According to studies, eating together has numerous benefits, such as: build communication, boost self-esteem and more. In honor of Eat Better, Eat Together month, we’ve taken this traditional home concept and transferred it into the workplace. Here are three benefits of lunch among coworkers:
  1. Networking Around the Table Food creates better connections between people. During your next team lunch, take the opportunity to ask about non-work topics and bond over common interests. For example, if your coworker recently became scuba certified, ask about any underwater expeditions she’s planning. Demonstrating interest in each other as individuals strengthens team cohesion and overall workplace satisfaction. According to Cornell University, eating with your colleagues will help you all succeed together as a team because you’re prone to want to help those closer to you.
  2. Gobble up Goals Sharing your dreams with coworkers at a meal helps make the connections to reach goals. This idea branches from positive reinforcement and helps endorse networking within the company to reach goals. Ask about one another’s upcoming projects, and encourage your colleagues in their efforts to attain both short-term and long-term goals. Taking the conversation out of the workplace has the added benefit of personalizing the conversation and decreasing sentiments of competitivity.
  3. Loyalty Increases Owners of the company can foster their team’s relationships by creating a space that breaks down barriers and builds genuine and honest connections.  Setting up a small dining area for coworkers to join together or scheduling a team lunch at a local restaurant is a great way to set a precedent of togetherness and teambuilding. The more personal an environment, the more you’re going to see a friendly, supportive workplace.
Collaboration between colleagues in the workplace is encouraged and one of the best places to accomplish this is around food. Take the classic example of firefighters and fire station or “firehouse” eating, where regular shared meals build a team that bonds and cooperates together. Next time you’re at work, invite a coworker and go to that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to experience!

Sharon Schweitzer and Esther Sanchez co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Esther Sanchez is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin as a Journalism major and working to earn a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and a certificate in Computer Science. She plans to use these skills to tell stories through virtual reality from around the world. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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