Team building can be expensive. There are hundreds of companies vying for your business with promises of making your team more efficient and profitable. Some of them are fantastic value for money whilst others are not. Extravagant trips away or the like often aren’t on the table for small or growing businesses but finding something more budget friendly can be tricky.

In an ideal world the value of a more collaborative and supportive environment should outweigh the cost. Colleagues with stronger bonds are likely to be a much more efficient team than those without irrespective of how well trained they are. The Armed Forces are a great example of this. They are highly trained of course but the bond they share is what makes them such an efficient team.

So how can you help build these bonds on a budget? The answer you’re looking for is food! Food is something that connects us all and the nation’s love for shows like The Great Australian Bake Off, MasterChef and Come Dine With Me is a great example of how central food is to our culture – not just for sustenance but for entertainment as well.
Using food could be your secret weapon to get your team bonding on a budget and here are some ideas for how.

Beer & Pizza Fridays

Going for a beer after work is a tradition as old as time but it can be an exclusive club. Non-drinkers may feel uncomfortable in a bar and working parents often have to dash home.

You can make sure no-one misses out by once a month encouraging everyone to pack up 15 minutes early and enjoy a beer and a slice in the office together. Talk about successes and challenges from the past month and aims for the next. People are far more relaxed and open with a beer (soft drinks for the teetotallers) and slice in their hand. Especially a free one.

Come Dine With Me

There are many ways you can make this work and it all depends on the size of your team. Where possible it is always best to follow the format of the show and have colleagues host one another across the week. For larger teams you could perhaps do this in pairs.

The prize is entirely up to you but a day or afternoon off is always a good place to start and with the prize of knocking off early up for grabs most employees would be happy spending a few bucks on ingredients.

Ready Steady Cook

Renting out a kitchen for an afternoon for a Ready Steady Cook competition isn’t going to cost the earth and is always a great laugh. Make it a little more interesting by separating ingredients into different bags and have teams pick an ingredient at random from each bag. The person who picks chocolate and fish will get a few laughs but not as loudly as when everyone else has to taste their invention!

Around the World

Encourage your team to cook and bring in a dish from their holidays, the favourite childhood dinner or pick a country at random out of a hat and cook something from the national cuisine. This is an excellent way to get people talking about their holiday experience or what memories a certain dish brings back. The more we learn about one another the closer we become.

Snacks

Consider buying in a mix of naughty treats and deliciously nutritious snacks every now and then. Better still, encourage colleagues to bake or make the treats themselves which will build trust and appreciation between co-workers.

Ice Cream

On those really hot days it’s worth dipping into the petty cash to front some ice creams for your sweating colleagues.

Unity of food

Sharing food is a psychologically significant form of nonverbal communication. Food bonding starts with the transfer of food from mother to infant; it is a sign of nurturing and affection.

Dinner time is when families catch up and connect; reconnecting with old friends is often done over lunch; every good party has a buffet; no summer is complete without a barbecue; we whip up feasts to impress guests, friends, family, colleagues and business clients the world over. Even our courtship rituals start with a meal out.

The sharing of food can help build a more natural culture of community at work; an environment where people work harmoniously together, boosting productivity. Colleagues that see each other as more than co-workers are more likely to offer guidance and mentoring to struggling or new co-workers. Food is a unifier – it brings people together.

It doesn’t matter your culture or your country – we all have food in common and it could be the best way to help your team bond on a budget.

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