If employers want to enhance team performance, they should really encourage their employees to be more sociable, at least while they eat.
This according to a new study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, which conducted an experiment on firefighters in 50 firehouses in a city over a period of 15 months.
The study, published in the journal Human Performance, interviewed 395 supervisors from fire departments and asked them to rate the performance of their team on a scale from 0 to 10. The supervisors were also questioned about how often their platoon ate together on a normal four-day work week. What researchers discovered was quite surprising: Those who ate together tended to get better performance ratings, and those who didn’t scored on the lower end of the scale.
“Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work,” said the study’s author, Kevin Kniffin.
“From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces,” Kniffin continued.
Researchers also learned from interviews that daily meals were an important part of firefighters’ shifts, so much so that those who did not eat together appeared embarrassed by the question.
“It was basically a signal that something deeper was wrong with the way the group worked,” Kniffin said.
The study may have been done on firefighters, but it can be applied to most firms, as it determines how cooperative activities among co-workers can actually boost productivity.