How KORTX’s Free Lunch Thursdays Encourage Collaboration and Community

Laurie McNamara

After the pandemic, companies scrambled to entice employees to come back, with 88% of companies surveyed trying to use various incentives like happy hours and standing desks to get workers onsite.

But for us, it’s not about luring our employees into the office with gimmicks or flashy perks. At KORTX, we see our office as a tool our employees can use to come in and utilize as needed. Our hybrid approach to working allows employees and their managers to decide where they work best each day: from the comfort of home or in the office with their teams.

Our ongoing Free Lunch Thursdays are just one example of how we prioritize our employees’ well-being and promote community and collaboration. 

At the end of the day, our goal is to create a workplace culture that inspires our employees to do their best work and contribute to our company’s success in meaningful ways.

✨ A study of 1,000 workers nationwide from all workplace types found that free lunch is one of the top perks that matter most to employees.

So, When and Why Did We Start Free Lunch Thursdays for Our Employees?

At the beginning of February 2023, our BizOps team proposed Free Lunch Thursdays at work to encourage more employees to come into the office and collaborate in person. 

We found our in-person meetings create more space to generate new ideas (e.g., Thursday lunches!), plan our team goals, and just have fun laughing together. So, we decided to offer Free Lunch Thursdays to be more intentional about having one set day a week where people know they can come into the office and connect with other KORTX’ers.

🍜❣️ What do you love about KORTX’s Free Lunch Thursdays?
Although free lunch is great, it’s not my only motivation to come into the office. However, when I get so absorbed in my work, it’s nice not worrying about what to have for lunch that day. Thursdays have become one of my favorite days to come into the office as it gives me a chance to catch up with my colleagues.”
–Jess Ostrom, Director of Account Management, KORTX

Promoting Community and Collaboration

kortx free lunches

When you have a comfortable relationship with your team members, you’re more inclined to reach out to them to collaborate or problem-solve.  

Although KORTX has a strong virtual community through Google Meet, Slack, and virtual events, working in the office provides unstructured space for impromptu ideas and conversations to flow easily.

For instance, during lunch, one day, one of our engineers, Javier Fernandez, pitched his idea for a bike rack at KORTX while chatting with the HR team. I always enjoy hearing the wide range of engaging conversations, from spirited engineering debates to wedding plans in Detroit and heartwarming stories of finding a lost dog (these are all past conversations!).

Balancing Flexibility with Collaboration

We know our employees value the flexibility of where they work daily and understand that remote work has its own benefits, such as eliminating long commutes and providing more work-life balance. 

However, there is still value in in-person collaboration, and we wanted to provide our employees with a fun and enjoyable way to connect.

🌯❣️ What do you love about KORTX’s Free Lunch Thursdays?
“Thursdays are the days I look forward to the most. I’m able to catch up with people that I don’t see on a regular basis.”
–Kaia Anderson, HR Coordinator, KORTX

And it is working! Although early in the program, we have only heard good things from the team members. Specifically, employees have said they like having a chance to set aside time for lunch to catch up with other KORTX’ers they do not regularly work with. 

🍕❣️ What do you love about KORTX’s Free Lunch Thursdays?
“I love the flexibility that comes with working from home, but I also enjoy coming into the office once in a while to socialize and connect with my colleagues in a way I don’t get to every day.

Our team is already amazing, and despite being a remote company, we all feel very connected. However, when you add socializing and free snacks to the mix, count me in!”
–Eric Simone, Lead Designer, KORTX

Our office is full of life on Thursdays, with colleagues from every department coming in and keeping the workplace bustling with activity. 

Supporting Local Detroit Area Restaurants 

We take great pride in our Detroit roots, and it’s important to support other local businesses in our community. When choosing the types of food to offer for our weekly lunches, we prioritize sourcing from local restaurants and eateries in the Detroit area.

🍔🍟 How do you determine the types of food to offer for the weekly lunches?
“I try to make sure we have a different cuisine every week. I like to try new foods, so when I order, I try to think of the group and bring new things in for Thursday lunch for other people to try. We frequent Casa Amado, Green Lantern, and Little Lou’s (weekly pizza is boring!) I also consult our resident foodie employees, Wei and Brandon, about suggestions for the week; it’s become a collaborative effort!”
–Kaia Anderson, HR Coordinator, KORTX

We’ve formed strong connections with the restaurants we order from and their staff often goes out of their way to make our experience more enjoyable. In some cases, our employees have enjoyed the food so much that they have started patronizing these businesses on their own time with their families.

One example is our relationship with Casa Amando, a local taco spot. After ordering from them for our Thursday lunch program, the staff now recognizes us and greets us warmly when we visit on the weekends. 

Similarly, the owner of Eastside Bagel has gone above and beyond, offering to take our orders directly so that we can skip the wait and enjoy our food without delay.

🍨❣️ What do you love about KORTX’s Free Lunch Thursdays?
“Free food is always a nice perk, and our Thursday lunch tradition provides an additional incentive to come into the office. I actually plan my week around it and aim to come in at least twice a week to enjoy the food and the company of my colleagues.”
–Gunnar Eisenmenger, Senior Account Manager, KORTX

Encouraging Employee Retention

The free lunch program greatly benefits employees and is our important retention tool. We survey our employees often, and the feedback is that they all appreciate the flexibility of choosing where they work and when and value the option to connect with colleagues face to face. 

The program has even become a highlight for out-of-state employees who happen to be in town on a Thursday. 

Knowing that lunch is taken care of on Thursdays relieves many employees and eliminates the stress of planning or preparing a meal for the day. 

Employees Who Eat Together, Stay Together

Our Free Lunch Thursdays have promoted community and collaboration and provided an enjoyable way for employees to connect. 

By frequenting local Detroit restaurants, we’ve also become ambassadors for the community, supporting businesses and building relationships while enjoying a variety of cuisines. 

And our employees seem to love it, a big win for our goal of creating a workplace culture that inspires employees to do their best work and contribute to the company’s success in meaningful ways.

Small gestures can go a long way in creating a positive company culture and fostering employee satisfaction.

At KORTX, we’re committed to you.

As a Great Place to Work-Certified™ company, we’re proud of our positive work culture that promotes collaboration, innovation, and growth for our team members. 

If you’re interested in joining our team but don’t see an opening that matches your interests and experience, apply to our Talent Pool today.

Join Our Talent Pool Today!

Laurie McNamara is the Human Resources Director at KORTX. She’s passionate about Employee Experience (EX). You can often find her eating out, watching Dateline, or cheering her kids on at their sporting events (there are a lot!).

Laurie McNamara

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