No matter what culture you come from, food is a highly social, bonding experience. When you think about good times over a table with good friends or family and great food, you’ll see why cooking might rank high among team building activities. In fact, you may wonder why it took someone so long to formalize the idea.

Cooking classes or competitions combine all of the ingredients that go into effective team building – fostering cooperation, building trust, and developing leadership skills – and puts them together in a unique way. This can be organized as the highlight of a corporate retreat or a one-day event that your team will look forward to. It won’t even seem like a work-related activity, and the outcome will be delicious.

Why team building is important

Many times, we feel disconnected to those we work with, and it’s a shame. You spend the majority of your adult life with your work colleagues and often don’t get to know more than one or two outside of the office. It’s especially difficult for managers who rely on having a cohesive work environment to meet deadlines or even simply to make the workplace more pleasant.

Team building should be seen as an investment in employee well-being. By helping co-workers bond in a meaningful way, you’ll improve the quality of life for your worker and help them resolve disputes. Statistics show that team building also boosts productivity and increases job satisfaction, which are among the issues that company owners and managers fight to overcome with every day.

Unfortunately, team building exercises aren’t always met with enthusiasm. If the mere mention conjures up scenes from sit-com, you’re not alone. However, innovative managers can make them something their staff looks forward to, and all it takes is a little creativity.

Leave work out of it

This may seem to defeat the purpose of encouraging closeness among your staff, but too many managers make team building seem more like work. It should feel fun, spontaneous and organic. Sharing an enjoyable experience naturally draws people closer together without that experience feeling forced. In fact, the most productive team building results happen when you take the group outside of the office and do something that’s totally unrelated to the job.

Don’t be afraid to be different

Many efforts at helping your team bond fall flat because of timidity. The opportunities to bring people together are limited mostly by imagination and access choose something that bold and adventurous that not only takes people out of the office, but maybe out of their comfort zone a little. It can be something as simple as going to a music festival or as bold as an adventure weekend courtesy of the company. It will be a treat that shows your employees that you care, and you’re making an investment in your bottom line.

Choose an activity that has staying power

Another issue with many team building exercises is that they’re forgotten soon after. Even if you make it an annual event, it’s often still a one-time activity that doesn’t keep the momentum and positive energy going after everyone returns to work. An activity that not only calls for a repeat, but is fun and enjoyable is a recipe for long-term success. That’s where the idea of collaborative cooking comes in.

How cooking classes and culinary events check all the team building boxes

Even if everyone doesn’t aspire to culinary greatness, we all enjoy a great meal. Meeting at a local restaurant or an organized class with local chefs takes us out of the workplace and into a social arena that has nothing to do with work. There are local and national companies that organize such events, and many are specially geared toward encouraging workplace bonding and interaction. Cozymeal is one such national company with presence in more than 15 different markets that has a focus on customized team building through cooking.

A group catering event or cook-off also fills the bill when it comes to uniqueness. Most classes are local, and you can arrange to carpool or meet at the venue. Ideas can range from dividing the group into pairs or small subgroups, depending on the group size, and having each group create a course and feasting on the results after. It can also become a competitive event, with different workplaces or departments working on a different menu and judging the results after.

This type of activity also provides ongoing enjoyment. Participants will have new menu ideas to take away from the event and photo ops to laugh over later. It can even become a weekly or monthly activity that the whole group anticipates with pleasure.

Be that manager with the fresh perspective by looking into investing in a cooperative cooking class to bring your team together. Not only is it fun and refreshing, you’ll all get to enjoy the delicious results. You may even decide to make cooking together a regular part of your corporate culture.