Keep Employees Happy, Not Hungry—Why It’s Important to Feed Your Team

Subsidized meal programs can boost productivity, collaboration, job satisfaction, and more. Learn about the impact food could have on your workplace.

18 min read

The temptation to stay at our desks and work through lunch is a common one. Maybe there’s a project deadline on the horizon, or a mountain of paperwork to get through, or a client meeting looming. While an office where no one takes a break may seem productive at first glance, look closer, and you may see tired employees, low morale, and loss of productivity. That’s why savvy business leaders make sure to keep their team members well fed. 

Providing food for work to your employees is a simple gesture that pays huge dividends — for your individual team members and the company’s bottom line. One survey of American and Canadian workers found that those who regularly took the time to eat lunch were more engaged with their jobs than those who skipped the meal. The people who ate lunch scored higher for job satisfaction and efficiency, and had a more positive opinion of their company. Essentially, food makes people happy, and happier employees are more productive employees.

Skipping meals is bad for health and bad for business

Food is the body’s fuel, and without it, we’ll eventually run out of gas. When people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels drop, they may feel sluggish physically and mentally. That can lead to:

  • Fatigue

  • Brain fog that dulls focus and concentration 

  • Increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can weaken both an employee’s job performance and wellbeing.

  • Stress-induced hunger, potentially causing irritability and negativity: trademark signs of “hanger:” a low-energy state caused when someone is running on fumes.

Healthy diets increase productivity

Feeding your team alleviates those concerns. In fact, supplying meals is a great wellness benefit. Instead of snacking or skipping meals, employees have access to nutritious food that fits their dietary goals. And that benefits everybody:

  • In one study, people who ate a healthy diet were 25% more likely to be satisfied with their job performance and 16% to 27% less likely to miss days at work 

  • Better eating habits also reduce the occurrence of presenteeism, a phenomenon when employees feel they must “power through” anything—even an illness or feeling run-down—to fulfill their work obligations. When employees eat well, they function well in all areas of life.

Better food means better moods

It’s clear that a well-fed team will not only get more work accomplished, but they’ll also enjoy their work more. Your brain controls your mood, and food plays an important role in fueling both your brain and body. Here’s what the science says:

  • Your brain uses about 20% of your daily caloric intake. That’s about 400 calories a day for the average working adult. You need healthy, consistent fuel for your brain to think and feel its best.

  • Research shows the link between food and mood is complex and based on individual factors like gender, age, and dietary history. No two employees are alike, so offering food choices that cater to everyone’s unique circumstances is key to unlocking food’s mood-boosting potential. 

  • Studies show that increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to greater happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. Encouraging all your employees to make healthy, mindful choices can mean more smiles in the office (or at your next virtual meeting). 

  • Research indicates that the right food choices can help your brain produce chemicals that promote better sleep, reduced anxiety, and increased feelings of calm. Who wouldn’t want their employees to be well-rested and at ease?

  • Food’s powerful influence on mood goes beyond helping us feel good—a balanced diet can even stave off clinical depression. One study shows that fish, vegetables, and fruits are associated with lower levels of depression and associated symptoms. 

We’re all human. Sometimes your favorite meal is all it takes to fight the Monday blues or ward off a midday slump. But food is more than just fuel. It’s a powerful emotional, psychological, and social part of life. Better yet, it’s a mighty tool every employer can tap into. From sponsoring corporate meals to cultivating a company culture that prioritizes nutrition, how you address food in the office can play a major role in helping your employees thrive. 

Viewing food holistically, understanding that employee happiness is a key business metric, and encouraging employees to put their mental and physical health on the top of their priority lists are all ways business leaders can turn an everyday necessity into a workplace advantage. 

Food can be stressful—it doesn’t have to be

The demands of life and work take a lot out of all of us. Having to decide, plan, and prepare what to eat each day is taxing. Taking the stress out of meal time allows employees to spend their mornings preparing for their big presentation, not preparing their lunch. Going to work knowing delicious, satisfying meals are available empowers employees to spend their free time focusing on what’s important to them—instead of on buying ingredients, planning, and cooking the upcoming week’s meals. 

Many of us have been there: sneaking onto a call two minutes late because the line at our favorite sandwich shop was longer than expected. Nearly everyone can relate to having to decide between stepping out to find some nourishment and powering through hunger to meet a tight deadline.

No one should have to decide between doing right by their company and doing right by their body. Reducing the stress that surrounds eating at work means your employees won’t have to choose. By offering key benefits that help your team fuel for work—like a membership to DashPass for Work, which provides free or reduced delivery fees at hundreds of restaurants—you can ensure their bandwidth will free up leaving more time and energy to focus on what matters. 

Morale can make or break your bottom line

You want your employees to feel valued, happy, and productive. You also want your company to grow and prosper. These two goals aren’t at odds with one another. In fact, with the right employee motivation strategies, you keep your employees engaged, which ultimately leads to a better bottom line:

  • In one study, employees whose emotional needs were met  showed higher levels of performance and an increase in cognitive levels.

  • There is a clear link between highly engaged employees and high-performing business units. High-performance units are determined by factors like profitability, sales, customer satisfaction, and employee retention. This means fostering a culture of highly engaged employees means better business results.

  • Focusing on bolstering employee morale through food isn’t just good for employees—it’s great for your company too. 

Workplace culture has shifted—but the need for a lunch break hasn’t

Today’s workplace culture looks radically different than it did 200 years ago, but taking time for a midday meal is as important as ever. From a hearty meal on the farm to the martini lunches of the 60s to our now-ubiquitous desk lunch, meal breaks have changed with the times.

  • Industrialization brought the workforce into cities – Before the rise of factory work, lunch often meant a hot meal at home. As industrialization took hold and ‘clock-in’ culture became the norm, workers no longer had time to eat lunch at their dining room tables. They began relying on grabbing a quick bite at an urban lunch counter or a light meal carried from home in a paper bag or tin pail. 

Employee happiness wasn’t a priority for factory owners, who often subjected workers to long hours and dangerous working conditions. This meant lunch breaks during this era were expected to be quick, so laborers could swiftly return to the line.

Eventually, government officials stepped in and required companies to designate break rooms and offer amenities like hot coffee for their employees. 

Executives received generous expense accounts to treat clients to luxurious meals—which may have boosted company morale, but it also sparked political controversy.

  • Start-ups and tech companies began offering food perks – The prevalence of the power lunch waned and tech companies and start-ups operating out of suburban, campus-style headquarters began attracting top talent with robust office food programs. Catered lunches, cold brew on tap, and nutritious snacks became common fare at companies big and small. 

Providing glamorous cafeterias, corporate meals crafted by seasoned chefs, and themed events became a way for cutting-edge companies to retain talent, boost productivity, and keep workers at their desks longer. 

  • The new normal put workers back at their dining room tables – With hybrid work models, people are often working from. In some ways, our workforce’s food culture has come full circle—people are eating lunch at home again. However, the demands of the modern workday rarely leave time to prep and eat a square meal in between video conferences. Longer work hours and coordinating with colleagues in different time zones means lunch isn’t the only meal to take place on the clock. 

Working from home doesn’t always mean home cooking

For employees working from home, having access to a full kitchen can be a welcome change from relying on the office’s shared microwave and mini-fridge. Although being able to cook a nutritious meal at home is idyllic in theory, it often isn’t feasible in practice. 

Working remotely means employees are frequently shouldering additional responsibilities like running errands and simply holding down the fort. Adding the burden of cooking and washing dishes to employees’ already overflowing plates often results in meals falling by the wayside.  

For employees who manage to carve out time to cook, being restricted to your own culinary creativity can be boring and uninspiring. Having a variety of unique, creative options can help make eating a meal feel like an event. In stressful times, something as simple as excitement for lunch or dinner can make each day feel brighter.

Even the best cooks don’t always have the ingredients, recipes, or counter space to cook the same meals as their beloved local restaurants. Being able to indulge in your favorite specialty dish can and should be part of remote work. Plus, eating out allows us to experience cuisines from around the world, which can break up the monotony of working from the couch or kitchen table. 

Give your virtual team a real-life boost

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the future of remote work. One thing is certain: company morale will always matter. Employers are finding creative ways to substitute the standard team outing, company-wide happy hour, or annual holiday party.

The common denominator across most morale-boosting events is food. 

Luckily, food can still be a great way to foster individual employee happiness and collective team spirit. Teams are finding ways to share the community-building power of food from their homes with the help of innovative solutions like DashPass for Work

If your employees yearn for the days of catered ‘lunch and learns’ or themed ‘Taco Tuesdays’, it’s possible to put these events back on their calendars and enjoy meals together with DoorDash group orders. Camaraderie has always been part of workplace culture, and even as teams adjust to hybrid work models, they can still experience the same professional solidarity from afar. 

Just because your team is working from different locations, doesn’t mean they can’t feel like they’re working together. Even if your employees are dining on different sides of town, food’s community-building ability can help bridge the distance. Whether you provide lunch to help blow off steam in the middle of a stressful project or a celebratory dessert to end a productive week, flexible work hasn’t changed how food brings people together. 

A gift of food shows you appreciate your team’s hard work

Finally, a free meal is a truly heartfelt gesture. It considers the employees’ needs and serves a practical purpose. And when a benefit is meaningful and thoughtful, employees will appreciate it and feel valued by the company. This is a perk your employees will savor. 

Make work delicious for your employees with DashPass for Work

Office food delivery programs are great for employees who can’t get away from their desks to eat during the day. The food comes to them, so they still get a delicious lunch without having to take the time out of their busy schedule to go get it themselves. But not just any food delivery service at work will suffice. 

DashPass for Work is an ideal solution for feeding your team because it offers tremendous value and convenience. Typical delivery programs charge extra service and delivery fees on top of a food order. DashPass for Work offers $0 delivery fees and reduced service charges — that means your employees save an average of $4 to $5 on every order. 

Plus, don’t forget the sheer number of choices that come with hundreds of DoorDash partner restaurants. It’s a varied selection with plenty of healthy food options that will appeal to everyone's palates and give them the nutritional boost they need during busy days. 

As the office admin, HR all-star, or anyone in charge of keeping employees happy, DashPass is easy for you to maintain, with little to no management required on your part. You set up your system by choosing how many DashPass for Work memberships your company will subsidize and sending your employees’ email addresses to DoorDash. All they have to do is opt in to the service through the DoorDash Work Portal

Get Started with DoorDash for Work 

DashPass for Work can be part of a comprehensive meal benefit program that may also include expensed meals and employee gift cards for food. With DoorDash for Work, you can customize a package for your company that meets your employees’ needs. When lunchtime rolls around again, give your employees a reason to take a break from their desks, and enjoy the pleasures of a delicious meal. 

Contact us to learn more about how to keep your team happy, not hungry or ​​download our ebook Delivery's Role in the New Work Landscape to find out how food delivery is reconfiguring the way we work.