Originally posted May 29, 2014 by Scott Woolbridge on https://www.benefitspro.com

Apparently, workers in the U.S. are hungry for food-based perks.

A new survey by Seamless, an online platform for ordering takeout or delivered meals, looked at what employees are saying about food in the workplace. And although a grain or two of salt might be appropriate with this dish, the results are thought-provoking.

In the survey, 57 percent of workers say food-based perks provided by employers would make them feel more valued and appreciated, 50 percent said food-based perks would make them more satisfied with their employers, and 38 percent said that food-related perks would make them more inclined to rate a company highly as a “Best Places to Work” survey. That last finding ranks food-based perks as No. 3 in importance, after flexible vacation policies and gym or yoga memberships.

Employers are responding to this: there was an 11 percent increase in the number of companies offering food-based perks to workers in the past year, the survey found.

The report also noted that nearly half the workers surveyed (48 percent), say they work late nights and weekends some or all of the time, but just 9 percent say they are reimbursed for meals while working extra hours. Fueling that productivity also makes for a more harmonious workplace, the survey suggests, with 40 percent of respondents saying food-based perks would improve communication and collaboration with other workers.  And although health issues can be a concern when food is provided at the office, almost half (46 percent) of employees in the survey felt that increased food-based perks at the office would promote healthier eating habits.

“Employees are working longer hours, and in return they want to feel appreciated for their hard work. Companies want to increase profits, but improving employee productivity while recruiting and keeping talented professionals are top concerns,” the report says. “Food-based perks offer an accessible way for companies to strongly impact both employee satisfaction … and recruiting efforts.”

Workers may appreciate companies that provide food-based perks, but HR experts and health groups often raise warnings about eating at work, especially if employees don’t also have opportunities to be active or access to healthy food choices. This WebMD article has several suggestions for healthy eating at work, including watching portion sizes, mixing in activity during the day, and bringing home-made meals rather than ordering takeout (sorry, Seamless).

And a 2013 Healthways study of 20,000 American workers found that workers who ate healthy throughout the day are 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance. So providing food at the office can be a good thing — as long as the programs address health as well as hunger.