What food will we be eating in the offices of the future?

A good meal is like a well-designed building. The elements of a dish are carefully selected, balanced and tempered not only to improve the taste, but also visual appeal, just like an architect might frame a building and enhance it with furniture and plants. The future workspace won't just revolve around mood lighting and sleeping pods; it'll take into account how and what workers eat.

For the majority of workers the concept of eating a decent, nutritional meal can be obsolete. Long hours spent slumped at a computer and being overworked means we often find ourselves reaching for a coffee or sugar-filled pastry for an energy boost. It's thought that at least a third of all calories are consumed at work, something that's not doing anything positive for productivity levels.

Health experts are aware that what goes into the body can affect a person's capacity to work and output on the job. Here we take a look at how we might be eating in the future workspace.

In-house chefs cooking up perfectly balanced meals

The hip East London work hub for creative businesses, Second Home, has its own restaurant, Jago. It was created by Louis Solley, formerly head chef at the renowned Ottolenghi, and dishes feature roasted cauliflower, duck egg and octopus.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs can attract some top cooking talent. Big companies like Airbnb, Zynga, Palantir and Dropbox have all had their own food programmes since their early years. Employing chefs might not seem to be something that should be high on the priority list, but more smaller organisations are starting to recognise their value.

Trained food professionals have the knowledge and skills to craft perfectly balanced meals that contain suitable amount of minerals, vitamins and iron and not too much salt or protein. They also know how to titillate taste buds and this can inject a bit of variety into the working schedule.

Read: The secret science of sound in workplace design

According to the former corporate chef of Bandpage, cuisine diversity makes for better workers. Creating a different menu every day can help break up the routine of hours spent coding or winning clients and customers.

Team eating as team building

How and what a company serves up to its employees is often a reflection of its personality.

"We do have an in-house chef who works on recipes, however to keep people to tune with what's in season, we also rotate the responsibility from time to time," says Ben Pugh, founder of Farmdrop, an initiative that connects communities to local producers, a bit like an online farmers market. "If you're new and not a big cook, making lunch for fifteen [colleagues] can seem like a daunting prospect. But getting hands on in the kitchen has almost become a rite of passage of sorts."

It's no secret that the act of eating can bring people together. In a workspace setting, coming together to 'break bread' is an opportunity to recharge for the afternoon.

"We stick to two team lunches a week so everyone knows when it's time to down tools, step away from screens and sit around our big communal table. It allows for thoughts to get informally discussed. It's also a chance to chat about the latest food trend," explains Pugh.

Read: Are sleeping pods about to become commonplace in offices?

"It definitely helps us build solid working relationships in a way much more lasting and valuable than you could ever hope for from an annual away day. And with members of the team from Sweden, France, US and South Africa, it's a melting pot of culinary knowledge."

Free healthy snacks

Snacks at work are a bone of contention. Processed foods packed with salt or sugar and refined carbohydrates (think: fried vegetable chips, bagels and muffins) can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly and then crash later on in the day, causing fatigue.

A number of start-ups, such as California-based SnackNation, believe that offering healthier options is the way forward.

"It's a really nice productivity hack. As 50 per cent of us leave the office every day to find a snack, a lot of staff time is lost to hungry tummies come 3pm," says Giles Mitchell, co-founder of Office Pantry, which delivers no-fixed contract boxes of wholesome food from selected producers to offices. "It works in the same way as vending machines, except companies don't have to pay rental or service fees and staff receive tailored snacks."

Only about a fifth of companies in the US offer employees free beverages and snacks. But a third of respondents in another survey said that the availability of food where they're working directly affects their happiness.

Growing our own fruit and veg

No article about food is complete without a mention of some future gazing technology.

Architects may soon design workspaces so they have rooftop or vertical farms, as imagined above by Cassidy+Wilson. Given the ridiculous price of a potato or apple at a nearby convenience store, growing our own makes sense. It'd save both money and time.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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