A team that eats together, works together

Teams should not just focus on work

Posted on August 18, 2015

There is a lot of research that emphasizes the importance of eating together, especially as a family. Families that eat meals together are more close knit, healthier, and have better relationships with each other.

“On the contrary, children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often” - The Atlantic

What is it about sharing a meal that is so powerful?

Meals as a team

In the NBA, the norm is for team members to be fairly independent outside of mandatory team activities. This is apparently not the case for this year’s Golden State Warriors, who regularly eat together as a team. See article, maybe (Sorry for the paywall, WSJ might show it to you.)

The article describes how the team shares group meals, because they actually enjoy being together. Given they won the championship this year, it seems to have had an impact on their ability to be a team.

Eating together facilitates stronger teams

Sometimes teams will go on a retreat or some team building exercise to try and establish positive team dynamics. I’m sure other research can speak to the effectiveness of such activities, but they are isolated incidents that happen infrequently. Eating a meal together on a regular basis provides opportunity for individuals to relax and enjoy spending time together.

The quality of the meal also matters. Which is better, having simple sandwiches from the grocery store or a hot meal from a local favorite resturant? A meal that is enjoyed will make a bigger impact on team dynamics.

Why don’t teams eat together more?

Eating together is not a magic solution to building a good team. The individuals in the team have to be willing to open up and get to know each other. Those who resist a more informal way to build better relationships with their team members may still not soften over a shared meal.

The cost of sharing a meal can also deter teams, particularly if an employer is considering providing lunches. Coordinating and serving a meal requires a catering service or going to a restaurant, neither of which are cheap.

Sharing a meal matters

I’m part of a team that enjoys spending time together, and I count myself fortunate. However, we are co-located, so the entire team is rarely in the same place. Regardless, those who are in the same office regularly eat together.

Any workplace that has regular team meals would benefit from having a meal sharing culture. Those who eat together, stay together.