Companies cook up fresh ways to lure employees back

Aiming to support wellbeing and tempt people into the office, companies are currying favor with food

August 30, 2022

Food has played a big role over the past year as companies lured employees back to the office. U.S. banks offered free lunches. London companies laid on daily roof-top barbeques. Clear Match Medicare dished out treats from a rota of visiting food trucks.

But now, with hybrid work fully entrenched and food options becoming more standard, tasty amenities are getting a health-focused makeover.

“Work is becoming a lifestyle, so when individuals take care of their health, they expect their employers to support that too,” says Flore Pradere, Research Director in JLL’s Global Work Dynamics team.

Take French car-sharing firm BlaBlaCar, which recently installed a chiller stocked with healthy frozen meals. Staff can cook and eat these onsite or take them home for dinner, avoiding the need for a stop enroute, or succumbing to convenient but less-healthy options.

While guilty pleasures such as pizza and burgers will always be popular, the workforce are increasingly craving fresh, healthy food, coupled with choice and variety – think vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

With many people struggling to find the time or energy to incorporate healthy habits into their working routine, employers now have the opportunity to actively support their people to create regenerative workplaces, Pradere says.

From phone to fork

Free snacks and refreshments have long been staples of the breakroom, while the corporate canteen has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. All this for good reason: 81% of employees agree that workplace food options impact their enthusiasm for going in, according to research by U.S. firm Fooda.

Yet with more people enjoying hybrid work styles and JLL’s 2022 'Workforce Preferences Barometer' finding that 59% of employees now expect to work in a company that supports their health and wellbeing, it’s not just those venturing to the office that employers need to cater for.

“Healthy eating is top of mind for the workforce right now as they are more and more conscious of the impact of their workstyle on their overall health and wellbeing. Employees now hold their employers as responsible and companies are looking at ways to help staff fulfil their nutritional goals – whether in the office or working remotely,” says Pradere.

The rise in popularity of home delivery apps and subscription services such as Hello Fresh highlight that convenience rates highly with time-poor workers, traditionally health-conscious women and younger people.

U.S. firm Freshly has seen a corresponding increase in demand from employers who want to send nutritious, ready-made meals to their remote workforce, while digital canteens – as championed by Brussels-based food-tech company Foodiz – are on the rise.

Employees of firms who subscribe to these services use an app to order lunches daily from a menu of fresh, healthy choices; the food is prepared offsite in a dark kitchen and later delivered to the office fridge for collection. Meanwhile remote workers benefit from home delivery with delivery costs paid by the employer.

Workplace design is catering for fresh appetites

While onsite canteens are nothing new, team kitchens are now also making their way into office design. As well as letting people cook healthy food, culinary activities can foster team bonding.

“When you share food, you share culture, and when employees enjoy cooking and eating together, it fuels a sense of belonging. This is what social sciences call ‘commensality’, and this is supported by a series of rituals that support social communion and harmony,” explains Pradere.

Take the International WELL Building Institute in New York for example, where staff benefit from a state-of-the-art communal kitchen, stocked with kitchen staples and fresh ingredients.

“It’s clear that in a dramatically changing world of work, healthy food is increasingly part of the new employee value proposition and organizations who cater for workforce wellbeing – across its mental, physical and social aspects – will benefit as result,” Pradere says. 

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