Businesses Attract Office Staff by the Belly
Goldman Sachs Group companies at Havas SA are hoping the path to their employees’ hearts goes through their stomachs as they attempt to lure staff into the office.
At Goldman Sachs, free breakfast, lunch and ice cream are part of the pitch to convince UK employees to leave the comfort of their homes, where some have been working since March 2020, when the pandemic took hold.
One of the most vocal proponents of bringing everyone back even allows these meals to be enjoyed on the landscaped roof garden of Plumtree Court, once reserved for patrons and visiting royalty.
“Food plays a much more central role in office life and businesses are using their food offerings to try to influence behavior,” said Robin Mills, UK and Irish managing director of catering company Compass Group.
“We are now fully a part of these reopening conversations and this new world as businesses think about how to keep people coming back. “
After more than a year of empty desks and Zoom calls, pandemic restrictions are easing and businesses are trying to figure out how to handle office worktops.
With uncertainty as to whether the UK vaccination schedule will contain the fast-spreading delta variant, some workers are unwilling to return to the office at all.
Businesses walk a fine line, allowing flexibility while trying to fill expensive office spaces and reinvigorate their corporate culture.
Xavier Rees, managing director of Havas London, said the media group is “clearly better when we’re in the office” and the priority is getting people back when possible.
“Not five days a week, but certainly more often – without depriving them of the newfound freedoms discovered during the lockdown. “
Havas, a Compass customer, uses food for this purpose, invests in its in-house kitchen, cafe and coffee shop, and allows employees to make menu suggestions.
Redesigned and heavily subsidized options include healthier meals on “wellness Wednesdays” and menus inspired by cultural events, vacations and world cuisine. It will offer free lunches on Mondays and Fridays in August.
“We’ve prioritized the kind of amenities that make being in an office attractive – and food is a very important part of that,” Rees said in an emailed statement.
“It’s nothing new – it was a huge selling point before the pandemic – but this sort of thing has become even more important as we start to encourage people to return to the office. “
Janus Henderson Group, which offered heavily subsidized three-course meals for just a few pounds in its City of London office before the pandemic, is now providing all the food for free.
The asset management group, which has set itself the overall goal of spending two days a week in the office, “can’t say what our exact future work model will be, but we want to keep the best of office work and remotely, ”a spokesperson said.
Cafes are becoming “more and more important”
Workspace Group, which provides flexible office space in central and suburban London, is modernizing on-site cafes to maintain a “social buzz” throughout its buildings.
“With more and more businesses returning to the office, our cafes are becoming more and more important,” said Will Abbot, director of customer service for the company.
Further afield, Amazon.com has funded more than 100,000 cups of coffee from local vendors operating out of its offices for employees at its Puget Sound and Arlington headquarters, as well as other North American technology hubs.
Some companies use food to help manage other goals, such as equalizing attendance for five days of the week or adjusting to changes in work pace, according to Compass.
For example, some reinforce their food choices on Mondays and Fridays when fewer people come to the office. Others offer more “twilight food” options between 6pm and 9pm to accommodate those who come fewer days a week but work longer when they do.
Some companies, more cautious about encouraging a wholesale return as Covid-19 remains a threat, are introducing app ordering and “hot lockers” so that food can be delivered to employees to limit the social diversity in the canteens.
Not everyone thinks of the dietary benefits. Fintech company Revolut, which has switched to permanent flexible working, is not pushing for a wholesale comeback anytime soon and is reassigning its Canary Wharf office into collaborative spaces.
Microsoft said some employees could potentially work from home forever, while Adobe said entry into the office remains “entirely voluntary for now.”
In a quarterly update last month, Compass said business and industry revenues were still only around 60% of 2019 levels given the slow pace of office returns, but it s ‘expects things to improve this year.
“We’re finding that employers are eager to return to work,” Mills said. “We expect a positive rebound in September when schools return, before a more normal return to business by the end of the year.” – Bloomberg