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Should employers provide breakfast at work for free?

We’ve all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, should businesses be responsible for providing it? Maybe. Nearly half of adults in the UK skip breakfast at least once a week, resulting in low energy levels and a lack of motivation as the workday wears on.  

Breakfast at work is a big thing in the startup community, and it’s not just to attract young talent. It’s certainly a nice idea. Still, there are some challenges you may want to think about before jumping on the bandwagon.

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The drawbacks

Giving your employees a free meal five days a week can become an expensive undertaking, more so if your organisation employs more than a handful of people.

You also need to offer a fair range of options to meet everyone’s dietary requirements. Not only that, but nut or pectin allergies are something to be aware of if you’re serving certain cereals or fruits.

The morning’s casual start might impact productive morning work hours. Breakfast could become one more logistical problem to worry about as a manager or business owner.

It’s not just about logistics. There’s the responsibility for food waste and packaging, which needs to be recycled or composted. With the environmental impact that all that plastic could have, it’s important to explore sustainable alternatives, and to guarantee that you’re ordering the right amount.

Why, then, is it even worth considering? As it turns out, it’s an idea that could pay for itself – and then some. 

Getting your money back

A few things happen when employees get a proper breakfast. First and foremost, it improves their performance. The University of Oxford’s Charles Spence notes the impact of a square meal in the morning:

‘The decision about if and what to eat and drink at the start of the day has been shown to have some profound effects on our health, well-being and cognitive performance.’ 

– Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford.

The proof is in the pudding (or Weetabix). Jay Hum, a project manager at software giant, Pivotal, has seen free breakfast sync the schedules of his team and boost their energy levels throughout the day. Their solution to prevent it from running into work hours? They hold their company-wide standup meeting immediately afterwards to signal the start of the workday. In his words, ‘we think it more than pays for itself’.

The mental benefits

The biological boost is just the start. Research has shown that when people eat with others, they’re happier. This won’t come as much of a surprise, but happier workers tend to be about 12 percent more productive, while those that are actively unhappy are ten percent less productive than average. It’s an investment in promoting positivity at the office.

Employees also get the chance to chat with coworkers they might not see on a regular basis, encouraging collaboration and a strong company culture. As if you needed another statistic, the evidence shows that when coworkers are friends, they’re likely to be two times as engaged with their jobs.

Enough waffle

All in all, a free breakfast seems to be well worth the initial hurdles it might present. We’ve thrown a load of statistics at you, but if you’re looking for an even deeper dive into the ROI of a free breakfast then check out Expert Market’s number-crunching guide. If you’re more into quotes, here’s an endorsement from the wildly productive journalist, John Gunther:

‘All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.’

(Before we forget – if you just want to order some fruit for your team, why not get a box of organic delights, delivered straight to the office.)

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