Legend has it that Google co-founder Sergey Brin once commanded his architects and office designers that “No one should be more than 200 feet away from food.” Whether or not this bold statement was ever uttered, it is true today that Google employees are always close to food – free food.
Cynics may say that all the free food made available to Google employees is designed to trick them into staying on campus longer. However, it is so much more insightful than that. In reality, one of the motivations behind offering free food is to inspire and fuel innovative thinking.
The idea is obvious once you stop thinking about the cost of lunch, and instead look at the potential benefits of it. The lunch hour provides a great opportunity for employees to leave their desks to interact with people throughout the organization. At a minimum, employees can have pleasant conversations. But so much more is possible.
For instance, Mark from the sales department might strike up a conversation with Jill from the marketing department. They discuss the challenges that the sales team is having and, together, they may come up with an idea for a better piece of marketing collateral. Similarly, a chance lunch interaction between Amy from HR and Bill from accounting could transform into the development of a successful new employee incentive program.
Really, the sky’s the limit. But these interactions can only happen when employees are in the office having lunch together on a daily basis. “Together” being the operative word. The only time that employees from all across the organization can have lunch in spaces that allow for casual connections is when the employer provides their daily lunch for free.
Executives at the most successful companies like Yahoo, Pinterest, and Glassdoor understand the powerful dynamics involving free daily lunches. They know that although it might appear that they are simply pampering their employees, they are really engaging their employees and empowering them to engage each other.