Sunday, February 5, 2017

The company that takes lunch together, succeeds together

Most of the company's I have worked in have some kind of flexible working arrangements; ranging from choice over your break times; through to hot-desking with infrastructure that makes working from home almost seamless. So you can imagine my surprise when I joined my latest engagement and everyone takes lunch at the same time! Everyone also starts and finishes at the same time with only a hand full of exceptions. Initially I thought it was weird, even backwards; when close to one hundred people downed tools and headed off for their lunch break. However the many benefits that this provides quickly became apparent and I am now a convert.

To support these fixed times the company has a suitably relaxed approach to staff taking time away from the office when life demands it. i.e. A delivery can only be between 8AM and 12PM; your dog has a bad back and needs to go to the vet, etc. So for the most part everyone is at work during the set hours; however there is enough flexibility to live our lives.

The four primary benefits of fixed Start, Lunch and Finish times are:

  1. Increased social interaction, building up a sense of community and company.
  2. More time available for collaboration and face to face work activities.
  3. Encourages people to rarely do overtime.
  4. Increased efficiency 

Benefits related to increased social interaction

  • More random social interactions occur at lunch time.
  • Easier to arrange lunch with people outside of your team, because you all have lunch break at the same time.
  • Group lunch activities are easier for individuals to plan and attend; hence there more activities run and more regularly.  Some of the regular activities include:
    • Futsal
    • Board games
    • Co-op multiplayer (i.e. Rocket League, Fifa )
    • Art excursions

Increased collaboration time

The fixed times make for more time available for collaboration in day to day work. i.e. Everyone is available to collaborate from the Start time all of the way through to Finish time. No more having to wait until ‘Core Hours’ to be able to talk to someone in your own team.

Rarely do overtime

With everyone up and leaving at the same time, it sends a clear signal that overtime is not the norm here.

Benefits related to increased efficiency

  • Easier scheduling of meetings because you know when everyone is available.
  • Team daily cadence aligned.
  • Team cadence can be fine-tuned.
  • Companywide issues/opportunities can be resolved faster.
  • Company half day celebrations are easier to plan, and will not cut into productive time.

Drawbacks to fixed Start, Lunch and Finish times

  • Prevents regular commitments outside of those start and finish times. i.e. pick up kids from child care. This can turn away some prospective hires.
  • I am sure there are more I just don’t know what they are…

What are your thoughts?

  • Have you had similar experiences? I would love to hear about them, especially if they are from different industries.
  • Have you had different experiences to this? If so please let know how it was different and what we can learn by contrasting the two experiences?

Photo by: Juhan Sonin