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Change Lunch and Change Employee Productivity Print

Here is how one company made a BIG difference in workplace culture, energy and health.

Employees often skip lunch, pack an uninspiring lunch and eat it at their desk or stand in long lineups to buy something that may not be good for their health and to keep them performing their best at work.

I loved the story of what Thumbtack, a San Francisco company did to solve this dilemma with great return on investment.  Here is the article published in Fast Company by Drake Baer on April 30, 2013 that is a must read for companies looking to improve health, productivity and workplace culture (which ultimately improves profits!):

If you think you’re productive during lunch, think again

Got a case of the brown-bag blues?  Time to rework your approach to lunch — which can be the most useful time in your day, if you do it like San Francisco Startup Thumbtack.

About three years ago, Thumbtack was a startup in a house high atop a San Francisco hill. There, the local-services-discovery company’s original six employees lived, worked, and schlepped to lunch.

With every noontide, the decidedly pre-revenue startup lost an hour to the lunch trek. Soon they had a crazy idea: What if they ordered in? They tried one day a week, and like the research suggests, they worked way better after eating well. Then a crazier idea: What if they hired a chef?

Personal Chef Thea Baumann

Personal Chef Thea Baumann

They did: Thea Baumann, culinary school-trained preparer of ultra-fresh deliciousness.

After three years, $6 million in funding, and a ten-times growth in staffing, Baumann is still Thumbtack’s full-time chef. While it sounds extravagant, cofounder Sander Daniels says chef-prepared, family-style meals make business sense. He emailed us the reasons:

  • Meals build community:  Everyone on the team eats together every day.
  • Meals build networks:  On Wednesdays they have an open dinner where recruits can hang with the company.
  • The team is more productive:  People aren’t leaving the office to wait in lines or scrounging around for food.
  • Everyone is eating awesome food, so everyone is healthy.

Thumbtack takes their gastronomy seriously:  Read their startup food manifesto.

But what if you’re not an ultra-progressive Silicon Valley startup?

Two-thirds of Americans eat lunch at their desks. The Atlantic wrote a definitive guide to the practice. And though it exposes you to more germs than a toilet seat, the desk lunch often feels like the best option–how else are we going to get to our families, friends, and happy hours faster? How could actually taking lunch actually be more productive?

For the extremely productive Bob Pozen, what you do about lunch isn’t about the meal itself, but the function that it serves.

“If you start with the notion that having a quick sandwich at your lunch is productive in the sense that it takes less time, that’s true,” the author says. “But we don’t want a hard and fast rule–we want a functional rule.”

The desk-lunch efficiency might not be worth it, he says, if you could gain more from stepping away.

You could eat alone–perhaps away from a screen. Pozen says that since you’ll sometimes have a very full day, eating alone can help you restore your personal resources. And don’t pull out your phone: An absence of stimulation encourages associative or integrative thought, spurring your creativity. As well, if you have an idea that you’re working on in your head, eating alone allows you to continue uninterrupted.

Another option is to address the afternoon energy crash: You could take a walk or hit the gym, or, alternatively, you could take a 20-minute nap. What works is individual, Pozen says, so it might be a good idea to experiment with a few different approaches.

eating togetherBut eating is also social. Companion, after all, is Latin for person-you-eat-bread-with. Etsy Design Lead Cap Watkins recently wrote about how his career took off after a fortuitous coffee. The lesson: Eating forms connections, connections beget opportunities. And it’ll make you a better negotiator.

 

But beyond and before the job hustle, sharing meals bolsters trust within a team. Pozen says that if you’re a manager, you can use meals as a way to check in with your reports. It’s like having a meeting, but instead of wasting time, you eat.

Lunch is a city

When Arram Sabeti, the CEO of Pandora-for-food startup ZeroCater, wants to explain the value of eating together, he brings up a legend of unplanned collaboration.

Back when Steve Jobs was planning the Pixar campus, he made sure to put the bathrooms in one central place, so that people from different disciplines would run into each other, which would mean that their ideas would too. It’s the same sense of cross-pollination we find urban centers: As cities become more dense, they become more productive. Sabeti’s pitch, then, is that taking lunch together can make your company more of a neighborhood.

“All of your coworkers are coming together every day and actually having a conversation,” Sabeti says. “It’s just kind of shocking that so many companies let this option slip by.”

The TakeawayHave your lunch around an office table every once in a while–or you’ll be leaving money on it.

Download a printer-friendly PDF of “If You Think You’re Productive During Lunch, Think Again”

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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