Lunch is an important meal of the work day. How do modern businesses experience a little more purpose and passion with adorable lunch rituals at work?
“Unless it can’t be helped, I make it a point to never eat while working. It makes both your food and work unenjoyable.”
Natalie Kwee is a full-time illustrator at Festive Folks. “It’s a website which lets people create customised artwork, no drawing abilities required!” exclaims the quirky creative. Embodying a whimsical, girlish take on digitally illustrated, personalised gifts, Natalie shares a space with Duo Studio, a social media advertising agency, in a conservation shophouse along Jalan Besar in Singapore.
Running a small business, lunch is one of the times that Natalie gets to be by herself, without the obligation of work. “Sometimes, we get sucked into the routine of work,” she begins. “I shouldn’t be saying this since I eat lunch at my desk, but the act of setting aside time for yourself can create a space to get inspired. Unless it can’t be helped, I make it a point to never eat while working. It makes both your food and work unenjoyable.”
Doyenne: How many do you have in your team?
Natalie: Me and my dog Lola. She comes to the studio three to four times a week. She’s the worst watch dog in the world. Lola spends her time rolling around her mat, sleeping and dreaming of snacks, and waiting for pats.
D: How does your studio look like?
N: I really love my studio space. It’s not set up to feel like an office, but more like a weird lady’s living room. I used to work in New York. When I moved back to Singapore, I took most of my apartment with me. The studio’s got lots of books, random knick knacks I’ve collected, and a big table to work on. The space that I work in is very important. It affects the kind of work I produce. So in the spirit of Festive Folks, I like to keep it colourful and kooky.
D: What do you have for lunch?
N: When we first moved to Jalan Besar, I discovered the scissors cut curry rice down the street. After one too many post-food comas, I started bringing my own lunch. I’m pretty boring. A salad with salmon, and a square of chocolate afterwards. I eat almost the same thing everyday!
Once a week, I’ll venture out in the neighbourhood. I usually grab a friend along with me. The fact that I have repeated meals makes the days I eat out more special. It’s a great time to catch up, explore the neighbourhood, talk about projects, head back inspired and ready to create more things! I try not to eat at the same place twice, but it’s proven impossible, especially since discovering this tiny vegetarian place run by the sweetest old couple.
D: What else do you do at lunch?
N: You can find me at my desk watching stand up comedy, or foreign documentaries. Lately, I’ve been on a Mexican drug cartel spree. It’s the only time I can actually read subtitles! I’m also a visual person. From time to time, I’ll flip through books to get inspiration for projects I’m working on.
“Lunch helps to break up the day. We all need to eat for nutritional purposes. If you’re working in an office environment, lunch is an opportunity for physical activity.”
Ciara Yeo co-founded The Mindful Company with the ambition to promote mental resilience, personal reflection and kindness through reminder bracelets with meaningful messages. Browse the website and you are greeted with minimalist, everyday jewelry pieces that prompts one to breathe, journey and believe in life.
“I reckon the first question to ask yourself is, what brings you joy? Once that’s answered, the hurdles you experience will appear to be more manageable,” says the former banking executive from Malaysia, who calls Singapore home.
Doyenne: Do you deliberately take time out during lunch to slow down?
Ciara: It all depends on the day’s priorities. I love having team lunches, scouting out new places to eat, and talking about non-work related topics. In terms of routines, I make sure to start the day right in the morning.
D: How can people take time out at lunch to be kinder to themselves?
C: Everyone experiences different stresses and challenges at work. I believe what’s important is recognising when you may feel overwhelmed, to the point where there is a noticeable drop in your productivity.
In these moments, lunch is a great prompt to take a break and give yourself a mental reset. For some, it may be having lunch alone. For others, it could be scheduling a lunchtime run, or meeting up with friends.
D: Does your office set-up help you experience lunchtime in a better way?
C: I believe in a clean and uncluttered desk, except mine is the opposite! I’m sure that regular clean-outs would enhance my desk experience. I might even be more likely to keep to my lunch breaks.
D: Why is lunch important to you?
C: Lunch helps to break up the day. We all need to eat for nutritional purposes. If you’re working in an office environment, lunch is an opportunity for physical activity, such as taking a nice stroll outside while getting lunch.
“Food brings people together. It also reminds us to stay humble. Despite technological advances, food is an essential part of travel, heritage and culture.”
Airbnb has a mission for anyone to belong anywhere. “In every country, local cuisines are core to their culture where a meal is beyond just physical sustenance. It is a time to bond and have shared experiences” says Evelyn Koh, Food Service Manager at the Singapore office.
When people eat with Airbnb, it’s like traveling the world with Airbnb. Staying true to this ethos, the staff’s food programme goes beyond nutrition. “We work with different business teams to create special menus that reflect meaningful events, such as National Day in Singapore, the launch of Airbnb in a new city, and ushering sakura season in Japan. These unique cultural diversities help us share stories through food,” adds Evelyn.
Doyenne: What is Airbnb’s lunchtime ritual?
Evelyn: Airbnb’s Food Programme is about keeping traditions and bonding people together over meal times. At our first office in San Francisco, lunch was served on a rooftop. Chef Sam, our first food manager, had to ring a bell to inform everyone that it was time to eat! Till today, we preserve this tradition, and ring the lunch bell when food is ready. It is nice to see everyone get excited, come together and connect over a buffet, where they can serve one another, and create that human connection.
D: Why is food important?
E: Food brings people together. It also reminds us to stay humble. Despite technological advances, food is an essential part of travel, heritage and culture. It is a gesture that someone has wholeheartedly prepared and served the food on your plate.
D: How do you source for lunch at Airbnb?
E: We enjoy working with our employees to brainstorm how we can recreate stories and experiences within our workspace. Many caterers actually come recommended by our staff. The Food Team then ensures that every dietary requirement is taken care of. It is important that the food we choose represents Airbnb. It is an extension of our company’s mission.
D: Why the emphasis on healthy and nutritious foods?
E: At Airbnb, health and nutrition help to sustain our people and environment. We work closely with local caterers to create menus that are certified Healthier Choice by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, while the in-house food team prepares salads, juices and yogurts. All dietary preferences and restrictions are taken care of from the first week one joins Airbnb. Although that means designing a menu that suits eight different diet types, we ensure that employees have a wide variety.
“For workplace happiness, a sense of community is very important. Mealtime rituals foster interactions, improve relationships and employee’s health and happiness.”
According to Financial Times, Wantedly is the highest ranking high-growth company in Japan. Headed by Akiko Naka, it wants people to meet the company they’ll love working for, and visit the people they love working with. With over a hundred employees at an average age of 28 years old in the Tokyo office, Wantedly’s pantry is designed to be the centre where team members gather and create vibrant communications.
Regular “Shuffle Lunch” and “CEO Culture Lunch” rituals help foster interaction, clarity and happiness among members. In addition, a weekly dinner get-together brings everyone to the pantry for a handmade dinner. We speak with Press Officer, Helene Koyama, to find out more.
Doyenne: Tell us about Wantedly’s lunchtime rituals.
Helene: “Shuffle Lunch” is held once a month, where groups of four to five members lunch with those they have not had much association with. This allows them to interact with those they had not directly worked with, and gain clarity on what other teams are working on.
The “CEO Culture Lunch” is held bi-weekly for the CEO and three members. It particularly focuses on sharing members’ opinions, making purposes clear and creating fulfilled workers. During these lunch meetings, the CEO talks about corporate culture, and answers any questions the members may have.
Once a week, members also come together for a handmade dinner. As Wantedly is a young company, there are many male engineers who live by themselves and often buy pre-packed meals from convenient stores and eat on their own. We thought that having a warm, tasty, and healthy handmade dinner at the office would foster happiness among our members.
D: How is lunchtime kept fun for a big team?
H: The concept of our office is “New York”, a city of traditions but also where new innovations are born. We have an open design with a laid-back atmosphere. Having lunch together provides an opportunity for creators to bounce off ideas, give feedback, and collaborate in a casual setting. Members look forward to the delicious and hearty meal, as well as vibrant and fun conversations in the pantry.
D: Why is it important for companies to have a lunchtime ritual?
H: For workplace happiness, a sense of community is very important. Lunchtime rituals foster interactions, improve relationships and employee’s health and happiness. These have a profound effect on workplace productivity. As there are many creators at Wantedly, this also promotes creative thinking and fluid communication.