There’s no day that passes by without finding myself to have to explain what I do for a living. When people ask me about my job, I wish I could say I’m a workplace eating designer and watch people nod approvingly. Instead, I have to clarify “I’m a workplace eating designer….,” wait for the blank look then continue “I help organizations improve how their employees eat at work and create more social and healthier work cultures.”
This is the first article in the series “Learn How a Workplace Eating Designer Can Transform Toxic Company Food Cultures.” Read the second article in this series here.
I’m not surprised: this is a new profession. Oh wait, does it even exist since I came up with the title myself?!
In the past, I’ve met workplace happiness consultants such as Tiina Saar-Veelmaa, Justin Dauer, and Samantha Clarke (check their interviews as part of the Workplace Wisdom series), but no one was specialized in food culture at work. Since I didn’t know any such professional and needed a short title that would sum up my work nicely, I made it up.
To deal with the legit confusion about my title, in this article I’m going to give you an intro to who a workplace eating designer is and what my role is in transforming toxic company food cultures. Stay tuned for part two next week in which I’m going to focus more on the ‘what.’
Bridging management consultants and architects
Do you like chocolate and hazelnuts? I bet you do!
I like to think of me, the workplace eating designer, as the maître patissier, who makes ‘baci di dama’. Bacio di dama is an Italian hazelnut treat, which is made of two crumbly biscuits that, like a sandwich, are filled with creamy chocolate. They are delicious. If you have never tasted one, you should give it a try.
What does bacio di dama have to do with this topic, Veronica? Well, the chocolate is like food culture; it bridges the two halves of the crumbly biscuits—management and architecture.
Management consultants and architects have been the main characters in the office landscape for decades. Whereas the former usually focus on organizational work and management restructuring, the latter design and furnish office spaces. Architects are also the masterminds behind shiny corporate kitchens, minimalistic eating spaces, and spacious canteens. Their main goal is almost always to design spaces for people to work. Not to eat. Nevertheless, they are usually responsible for the design of eating spaces.
Eating spaces exist to provide employees space to eat. But too often that’s the only thought that a company gives to eating.
This is not enough. Food culture spreads beyond the breakout area or the office kitchen. In organizations where the practice of eating at the desk is widespread, takeaway lunches and snacks take over the desktops, for examples.
What is a toxic food culture?
How do you feel if I tell you that many people believe the food they eat in their workplace is dull? That too many employees don’t have the time to take a proper lunch break? Or complain that their company’s canteen is alienating? A study conducted by NYT Magazine reports that in the USA roughly 62% of employees at lunch at their desk. Dull food and the lack of time to eat is what one would describe as “toxic food culture.”
And so, who is a workplace eating designer?
Good question! And here is my definition of a workplace eating designer:
The workplace food designer is a culture specialist whose job is to connect the business and the workspace with food culture, looking at ways for eating habits and gatherings over food to positively impact productivity, well-being, togetherness, and increase the quality of life.
My job is to help companies identify if they have a toxic food culture and how it presents itself within the organizations; in rituals, in eating spaces, in conversations, and so on. When I start creating a food program for my clients, I always start with an audit session, in which I analyze how employees engage in spaces, what they eat at work, and what the synergies are between the company values and how those are reflected inward—in eating conditions.
In the simplest of terms, food culture at work is essentially “how and what employees eat in your workplace.”
Eating is the most universal experience…even in the workplace
We all eat. While for some eating is a pleasure, for others it can be a painful and isolating experience. Our relationship with food follows us all our life and doesn’t stop at the door of the workplace. It’s important that all employers remain sensitive to this matter. What and how we eat doesn’t not only impact our well-being and productivity but can also give an incredible competitive advantage to your company.
I hope this post helped you get a better understanding of my job. If you’re curious about my work on a day-to-day basis, read What does it mean to work as a workplace food designer?
Need help moving forward?
My goal is to help organizations improve how their employees eat at work and build more social and healthy work cultures. You can book a free discovery call with me anytime to talk about your project.
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