How Top Companies are Planning to Re-Open Their Offices

It’s a weird time. As a company that would usually extoll the many reasons why employees sharing a meal together is so beneficial to the growth of an organization, we are finding it challenging to say that because, right now it’s not. It’s been difficult given that our business is based on employees eating together at work, but the safety of your employees and our’s is the top priority, always. 

We’ve found ourselves uniquely positioned to not only help spread valuable knowledge of how top companies are coming back online, but also to share how you can keep employees safe by bringing food into your office.EC-meals-blog-April2020The EAT Club Customer Success team has been meeting with some of the most innovative companies in the world to understand how facilities teams, food and beverage teams, office administration and HR teams are preparing for office life in a COVID-19 world.

Here is the general outlook and some of the changes we’ve heard so far.

When asked how their business has been effected:

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We also asked when they plan to have employees return to the office:

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With many of the companies we talked to eager to get back into their offices and provide employees with EAT Club lunch, we wanted to find out how they’re moving forward with office life in the Covid-19 world. These progressive companies know that having employees in the office is still important and, quite frankly, essential to innovation. Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying:

“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say “Wow” and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

Of course, now we’re using Slack and running into someone means talking from 6’ away, but the concept is still strong. In fact, serendipitous interactions at work is still a strong philosophy in the technology and media space. But our new reality is one where even though we want to reenter the office to enable that interaction, we need to do so in a way that puts employee safety first and as we have learned from the last few months, minimizing the amount of physical interaction with other people is a key piece of helping to keep us safe.  So, how are companies planning to manage that balance?

In an effort to minimize the total number of people anyone interacts with as well as to generally make the office less densely populated at any one time, many of the companies we’ve talked to have decided to go the route of population splitting, meaning, half or a percentage of their workforce goes to the office and the other percentage goes on an alternating day. Think of it like, Group A goes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Group B goes Tuesday and Thursday. Next week, they’ll swap the schedule.

adult-business-computer-contemporary-380769Photo by Marc Mueller from Pexels

There’s also the case of workspace-proximity. What do you do when you have an open-floor layout and desks are clustered in pods that are close together? We’ve learned from some companies that separation guards are being utilized. Think of the old school cubicle setups, but transparent and updated for the 21st century.

Another risk factor for offices trying to stay safe is the high traffic that flows through common areas like micro-kitchens, break rooms and coffee stations. Many of the companies we talked with are cognizant of the risks in those spaces and say they will be limiting the amount of people in those spaces, or shifting some of those resources to other areas. This is all in an effort to reduce the risk of virus transmission that can happen when people are challenged to keep a proper 6’ distance.

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Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

Part of those shared spaces like micro-kitchens and break rooms are the well-intentioned reusable mugs, cups, utensils and plates. Unfortunately many offices don’t have the proper equipment to effectively sanitize those items. For this reason, and because employee health and safety are the highest priorities, many companies are foregoing those and opting for sealed, disposable utensils, cups and plates. Additionally, sealed, individually packaged food and snacks are the only options that will make it into their offices.

Another challenging element, but presents the potential for creative solutions, is the idea of taking meetings at your desk and eating at your desk, when your colleagues are just a few yards away. We know this type of situation will make employees feel safer, but is it awkward? Look at is more as an opportunity to be fun. Encourage your employees to have fun from a safe distance. Prompt them to wear something silly like a weird hat or just dress in a manner that makes them feel more at ease. This is a time to bend the rules of your typical, buttoned up conference calls. If your workforce is working remotely, or in the office together but apart, it shouldn’t matter how they’re dressed. As long as they act professionally, the whimsy of a virtual joke will boost morale and maybe even win you that deal.

austin-distel-wawEfYdpkag-unsplashPhoto by Austin Distel on Unsplash

As we know, the office is an important place for any growing business. Not only do top companies invest in the overhead needed to keep an office going, they invest in making that a place that employees want to be. One of the most important investments that make working in the office attractive to employees is the employer-sponsored lunch. Other perks like coffee, snacks and the delineation of work-space vs personal-space make the office a place where employees can focus and thrive. These are all important in the pursuit of building incredibly successful companies. 

When you’re working to entice employees back into the office, an important part of that will be the easy access to a safe lunch. After investing so much time and attention into making the office a safe space by enabling social distancing and minimizing the number of people employees need to interact with in the office, don’t then force your employees to venture out to crowded public spaces to find their own lunch. Bringing lunch into the office will help minimize the potential of your employees’ being exposed to COVID-19 from public spaces. When we think about the cost of lunch, we ask ourselves “Can we afford to shut down our office again?”.kate-trifo-1BS9SmgovrY-unsplash-social-distance-blogPhoto by Kate Trifo on Unsplash

The most innovative companies that we work with are putting a huge amount of effort into bringing their workforce back to the office in a safe way. With all of this work and investment being spent on making the office safe, companies are realizing that forcing their employees to leave the office to find their own lunch is totally contradictory to all of their safety efforts in-office. For that reason, they are looking to EAT Club for sealed, individually-packaged meals for their employees. 

At EAT Club, we used to describe providing a great lunch experience for employees as “a benefit”.  As companies begin to cautiously return to the office, with employee safety as their #1 concern, we now truly believe that offering a safe in-office lunch experience has moved from being a benefit to being a requirement for the awesome companies we are lucky enough to call our customers.

We have always made food safety the top priority in our operations and have doubled-down on that during this COVID-19 pandemic. EAT Club is the only enterprise-grade program that brings individual meals to offices from the highest caliber of foodservice partners and cloud kitchens. Our Food Safety and Quality Assurance teams, along with our Food Partnerships team, work daily to ensure our vendors adhere to state, county and federal foodservice regulations. We’re also quite particular when it comes to performance, and only use the restaurants and dishes that maintain the best performance in delivery situations (no soggy fries here).food-safety-blog

Get in touch with one of our corporate foodservice specialists to learn more about how you can reopen your office in a safe way.