Office Traditions: Putting the "Team" in Teatime

Hannah's strawberry shortcakes. Click for the recipe.

We have a tradition in our New York City office of having “teatime” at 4:00 p.m. every Thursday. It’s a bit of a misnomer, since we don’t often have tea, but we do always have some kind of delicious treat (we rotate responsibility for bringing in something to share). No one can exactly remember how or why we started this tradition, but this is the fifth year running, and the time slot has remained “sacred.” We never miss teatime.

Since this tradition has been a great morale booster for us, even during tough times for the organization, we were curious to see if other nonprofits have food-related morale-boosting rituals. After a bit of research we found out that, indeed, many nonprofits use food as an excuse for bonding, team-building, knowledge-sharing, and more.

The Vera Institute in New York City, for example, has several traditions. They have a regular employee bake-off, an annual pie day, an annual potluck where staff members bring in dishes that relate to their family and ethnic backgrounds, and occasional “salad bowl” lunches where everyone brings in a salad ingredient for a buffet.

Hester Lyons, Human Resources Director at the Vera Institute, says these food-related events are a source of pride for the staff members who organize them. Additionally, she says they promote wellness among the employees, and provide valuable opportunities for staff members to get to know one another.

Additional ideas we’ve heard about from other nonprofits include cooking demonstrations, guest speakers from local greenmarkets or farms, brown bag lunches with a topical film screening, and, of course, regular after work happy hours.

If you’ve noticed your colleagues are feeling stressed or could use a boost, consider starting your own food-centered tradition. Bon appetit!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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