Coworkers having lunch in the office

How to improve company culture, one meal at a time

Published on : 9/13/21
  • Creating the right corporate culture is essential for shaping a business' identity and most importantly, nurtures and engages your workforce. As leaders look to transition into a new phase of working, it would be unwise to assume that their company's culture will just resume where it was 18 months ago. So, how can leaders drive a distinct culture?


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    What is organisational culture?

    Organisational culture is critical to a workplaces' foundation as it acts as a fabric that guides us to unite values that are central to a businesses success. Historically, cultures have been built upon a combination of themes: founder purpose, sector and environmental needs, influences, and leader-fostered behaviours. But do we want our company culture to remain the same when our employees return to the workplace? This has been the question at the forefront of every corporate leaders’ mind.

    Optimising organisational culture within businesses today helps shape the standards and attitudes built within the company's foundation. Reviewing and utilising this sector enables you to harness the power in attracting like-minded people and ensures your organisations run linearly and provide predictable statistics. As companies are solidifying plans in welcoming new and old team members into the workplace, there have been vital considerations as to whether a company's culture should remain the same. 

    Why should you care about organisational culture?

    Hybrid working models are radically reshaping how we deliver for our organisations. The freedom of home working was initially met with positivity by both employees and employers who were pleasantly surprised by the consistency and, in some cases, a dramatic rise in productivity levels.

    As people enjoyed the transition to working from home, 18 months down the line, concerns about mental health, performance and motivation of employees have started to increase. Now more than ever, organisational culture becomes key to boosting employees' focus and engagement. 

    Implementing a relevant and robust company culture will provide your team with motivation and a sense of pride and belonging. Employees who identify themselves as working within a rich culture feel a part of a team with a common goal and desire to help their company succeed. However, the reverse can also be true. Without a strong sense of organisational culture, employees can quickly feel unengaged, unhappy and dissatisfied. Inevitably this will slow the organisation's progress, lead to poor performance and makes opportunities elsewhere seem more appealing.

    How does organisational culture impact individual motivation?

    workplace design

    We all need to feel purposeful. Company culture helps to build a shared vision and gives your employees something meaningful to invest in. Without this, what are your team working towards?

    The hallmarks of strong company culture are a motivated and engaged team. Think of it this way - if your workplace promotes collaboration, celebrates successes and recognises individual effort, it's more likely that your team will be happy to put in the work to reap the rewards.

    How does organisational culture affect change?

    The pandemic has shown us first-hand the power of organisational culture. As countries entered a lockdown, companies with a solid cultural grounding were more likely to survive and thrive, whereas those lacking this foundation found the adaptation much more challenging. 

    However, leading organisations did not attempt to retain a static culture during the intense and stressful phases of the last 2 years. Best in class organisations recognised the new needs of their team, listened to employee feedback and began to shift the familiar culture towards one that was fit for purpose - at least for the time being. Leaders who recognised the significance of their employees' well-being and happiness were much more likely to maintain a strong sense of culture throughout lockdown. This, in turn, helped boost team morale and productivity.

    How can food help to improve company culture?

    Most employees would agree that working from home was not always the perfect scenario. Research indicates key drawbacks, including difficulties around collaboration, problem resolution, lack of meaningful connection and increased loneliness. However, almost half of employees feel either indifferent or negative about returning to work.

    By learning from the issues of working from home, employers can entice their team back to the office, rather than making the next hybrid stage of work filled with apprehension. Workplace experience is key to a successful return.

    At the heart of culture is food - both at home and at work - and it’s a powerful tool in connecting people. Over lockdown, employees felt that one of the key benefits of working from home was the ability to eat more healthily. Repositioning food as the centrepiece to create shared moments of bonding will boost both morale and productivity in your workplace as employees will be taking active steps to help reset their minds and energy.

    How do companies learn from this?

    • Improve morale and employee satisfaction

    A warm and welcoming office canteen becomes the hub of impromptu meetings and precipitates moments of employee connection. Assessing whether your canteen enables this is an essential part of optimising your employee food experience. Different seating types with large communal tables for teams through to small pods for more confidential catch-ups will ensure your canteen is appealing to all and used throughout the day, becoming a positive workplace feature.

    • Make food a focal point of the office experience

    While many of us turned a new leaf to 'eat healthy' during lockdown, others have indicated that their diets became repetitive, whilst primary carers also noted fatigue with the demands of feeding a household many more meals than usual. As we look at how to excite teams on their return to the office, Sodexo is committed to providing a varied, exciting food selection throughout the day. Leading corporations have already taken on board these changes with new programmes to offer takeaway meals that can be heated when arriving back home from the office.

    • Feed your team well

    Emphasis on health has significantly increased over the last year, and ensuring employees can make healthy choices for main meals and snacks is imperative. This does not only apply to office workers but also within the manufacturing environment where physical stamina is essential.

    • Employee retention

    A well-fed workforce is less likely to start looking elsewhere. Particularly among recent generations, health and nutrition is a growing priority. Offering fresh, quality food in the workplace will attract prospective employees, retain talent, reduce turnover rates and inspire other health-oriented activities such as regular exercise.

    • Offer flexibility

    Rigid traditions don't fit within the modern workplace culture - flexibility is king. While communal meals will always have a place, food services must cater to the ever-changing needs of an agile workforce without compromising on quality, by making meals and snacks available throughout the day.

    • Inclusive workplace

    Company food should reflect the diversity of your team and should be influenced and guided by them. Whether you are in Laragh or London, a company should not presume peoples’ preferences. The importance of religious requirements and nutritional needs like dairy, wheat-free, veganism or vegetarianism remain key to unlocking the inclusive power of food. 

    Why is food so important right now in shaping company culture?

    The changes we are transitioning through have altered the trajectories of millions of corporations as well as the lives of individuals. With many employees working remotely and a vastly increased amount of time spent at home, we can contextualise workplace changes in terms of a more significant human value shift, especially regarding food culture.

    Here is a snapshot of current employee priorities at work:

    • Sustainability - 94% of consumers feel it's important for industries and retailers to reduce their plastic packaging.
    • Speed and convenience - 61% are interested in purchasing products that save time and effort.
    • Health & Wellbeing - consumers are increasingly making choices that align with their identity and morals.

    Employees are more in tune than ever with how they want to work and what's important to them in their working environment. There is also an increased expectation around what workplaces can offer. Companies who understand this are using best-in-class technology to make food faster and more personalised and are enabling flexible options that keep employees safe and well fuelled.

    Start today

    Lead an inspiring return to the office and respond to employees' calls for safe, healthy and convenient food options by transitioning food to the forefront of your company's culture. 

    At Sodexo, we're committed to meeting the demands of a hybrid workforce. We use analytics to adapt to changing employee needs and create integrated models that balance service experience, investment, efficiency andReturn to work guide cost.

    Finding better catering solutions isn't just about enjoying food at work - it's about keeping employees happy, healthy and productive. Our flexible approach to food ensures businesses can build a healthy foundation from which great company culture can thrive. With highly experienced nutritionists to help guide you through the transition, we can offer quality, convenience, and catering to a varying attendance every day of the week.

    Download our guide to uncover how to achieve a greater balance in the workplace and a successful return to the office.

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