Illustration: Kagan McLeod Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Teams who eat together do better work, a Cornell University researcher recently found. Studying 50 fire departments, Kevin Kniffin found those who ate together once a day were more cohesive and received higher performance ratings

Over a period of 15 months, Kniffin conducted interviews and surveys in a large city’s fire department, noting down how often each platoon ate together, and asking supervisors to rate their team’s performance compared to other fire companies they served on a scale of 0–10. Platoons who ate together the most got higher scores for their performance, while squads who ate together the least got lower scores.

“Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together, and that intimacy spills back over into work,” observed Kniffin. “From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue, and that seems to continue in today’s workplaces.”

During interviews, firefighters identified their daily group meal as an essential activity during their shifts. Many firefighters who worked shifts starting at 6 pm frequently ate two dinners, one at home and a second at work. Firefighters who were asked why some stations didn’t eat together seemed embarrassed by the question—a sign that the group was really having problems, said Kniffin.

Want your team to be as cohesive and high-performing as a fire fighting platoon? Find a way to have them eat together every day.

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Does your team eat together? Where should bosses draw the line on inter-office socializing? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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