Food has the implausible power to bring people together and inspire happiness. It also has the capability to motivate and improve productivity, especially at the workplace. An innovative solution by Apptivate Africa, an employee recognition firm, is ensuring that employers in Kenya are leveraging on the power of food to promote their staff wellbeing and increase motivation. M-kula, a digital meal voucher allows employers to pay for their staff meals in a transparent and efficient manner.
Employers using M-kula, set aside a certain amount of money for their staff lunch. “The employer then goes to our portal and assigns the money for each employee in a month. The amount is spread across the month to ensure that they have money for lunch throughout that period,” says Neil Rebeiro, CEO Apptivate Africa.
To provide the service, the company partners with food outlets, including restaurants, caterers, dial and delivery services and even food vendors in vibandas from whom employees can order food with money deposited in their virtual wallets through a mobile phone app, Apptivate Africa. Partnering with the outlets has tremendously helped boost business for them by creating a constant flow of customers.
The company, which operates under the global food delivery company Sodexo, first came into the country in 2015. An amendment to the Finance Act made by the government to allow employers offer their staff Sh48,000 meals per year tax free, set the ground for the entry of Apptivate Africa into the Kenyan market. “The tax free incentive created a unique opportunity for employers to motivate their employees. The Act requires that employers show the meals provided and cost. M-kula offers that transparency,” says Neil.
Feeding employees, Neil says gives them the nutrition they need to work efficiently, boost their health and reduce the level of absenteeism due to illness. A Food Workplace Survey conducted by Seamless, a UK catering firm in 2015, involving 1,200 professionals showed that feeding employees boosted their morale. Up to 48 per cent of the respondents indicated that they were more likely to be satisfied with an employee that provided food as a benefit. For years, free food has been a major perk by tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.
According to the survey, food perks were particularly more appealing for millennials, with 38 per cent of them saying it’s a factor they would consider before accepting a job offer. It comes third after health insurance and flexible vacation policies. “For young people most of their life revolves around work. They put in longer hours and most especially bachelors do not have time to cook,” says Allen Kambuni, Director, Bean Interactive. The digital marketing agency is one of the companies using the M-kula solution to feed its employees.
According to Allen the company, which mainly has a workforce aged below 30 started using the app in August last year. The company provides a meal equivalent to Sh500 per day for their employees who work late. It has been a good return on investment in terms of improving productivity and keeping the staff motivated.