I’ve been able to attend a plethora of training sessions and presentations to aid in the development of a successful corporate culture. During these sessions, it was reinforcing to hear a presenter highlight ideas that our organization is already utilizing, and equally inspiring when a new concept surfaces that I can bring back to our staff. However, every now and again, I would overhear jokes of culture being built on pizza and jeans. While, this can add to an organization’s culture, this can only be done if a strong foundation has been laid.

When approached with proper intention, seemingly casual activities can provide team-building and self care while on the clock.

The Foundation recently hosted a food day that we so cleverly named, “Soup-tacular.” A basic food day in nature, we enhanced the fun by presenting awards (engraved wooden spoons) for the soups that received the most votes. By no surprise, members of our staff really jumped in; shortly after kickoff debates of whether or not chili is soup and fun chatter alike began. To highlight commitment, one staff member made four batches of Vietnamese pho, before she deemed it competition worthy. Overall, it was impressive to see the amount of care members of this organization were taking to feed their co-workers.

If you think about it, it’s no surprise really. In a world where eating alone at your desk has become normalized, people are eager for moments of connection. Not the connection forged by organizational goals and strategic plans, but a connection on a personal level with the people they spend eight or more hours a day with. A chance to debate whether the “Ultimate Tortilla Soup” needed a squeeze of lime or not.

Behavioral and Brain Scientist, Nick Hobson, Ph.D, explains, “Just as it does for people outside work, eating together will help regulate people’s adaptive behaviors at work. They will be more focused, more attentive to a task given, and more motivated to do their job well. Teams will become stronger—more cohesive units committed to pursuing shared outcomes and goals.”

It’s true, I’m actually saying that eating together can build culture, the best part is it’s really quite simple. Here are a few tips to help building culture in your organization:

  • Make it interesting. Give it a name, theme, or even make a contest out of it. Anything to break the routine of day-to-day responsibilities
  • Plan the event in advance. Staff members are busy and time is precious, allowing time for planning encourages participation. Also, hosting events on a Tuesday gives your staff members time to catch up after the weekend and remember that the event is coming up
  • Recognize the effort! Our organization provided engraved wooden spoons on Esty to aid in the overall excitement. There was so much excitement around winning a spoon, I couldn’t believe it! All in all, these fun tokens serve as simple reminders to the fun we had
  • Call out the gains. Don’t just sit on your thoughts, tell your organization what the time together meant. Call out and name the benefits that come from shared experiences.

Our Soup-tacular ended with an awards presentation led by a member of our Donor Services team dressed as a cowboy—no real reason, we just like costumes! We laughed and applauded the victors, posed for photos, and eventually returned to our offices. As it turns out, five crock pots, three wooden spoons, and the ancient tradition of meal sharing was time well spent.