US employees are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021. Getting vaccinated is on the rise and the gradual return to the office is underway. For some, the plan to return to the office, and the break room, has been on the wishlist. Given the mix of circumstances, adjustments need to be made to make the office space and break room safer, comfortable, and more inviting for your team’s return. Questions come to mind regarding changes needed in the break room, office protocols that need to be rolled out and trained for enhancing in-office safety, while fostering culture in the office. We spoke with Mike Fiorino and Greg Yannalfo, seasoned Account Executives with Corporate Essentials, and subject matter experts in office break rooms. Mike and Greg understand the needs of the office and the importance of providing environments that allow for employee interaction and collaboration while promoting a “culture of care and safety” for the team. Let’s look at their thoughts on how to virtually assess the break room and learn more about their recommendations to update your space for a more safe, comfortable, and inviting return to the office.
Q: What does a virtual break room assessment entail?
- A: As the leading provider of coffee, beverages, and snacks to offices in NY and NJ for 25 years, a full break room analysis is done. Looking at traffic flow and space through the break room, best setup and organization/spacing of snacks and supplies is conducted. The goal is to space out the coffee, snacks, and other beverages to allow for comfortable distancing. Reducing touchpoints in the break room space is another objective of the virtual audit. If a coffee or water machine can be easily updated with hands-free technology we set that up. If the existing equipment is not compatible, recommendations are made for alternative equipment. There are places and spaces where touch cannot be avoided. We will identify the handles, keypads, touchpoints, and switches and provide a package of antimicrobial/antibacterial film, such as NanoSeptic film. Corporate Essentials can install the film or the facilities team in the office can do it themselves. Finally, we explore the entire office to decentralize the breakroom. Together we will see if additional areas allow for an added single-serve coffee brewer, water machine, and small snack tray.
Q: What are the benefits of decentralizing the break room and establishing additional mini break room stations?
- A: Collaboration and human interaction are what people are yearning for in their desire to return to the office. Providing the basic amenities such as coffee, water, snacks, and beverages helps to keep your employees in the office for the day once they arrive. Limiting the need to leave the office reduces risk by limiting the interactions employees have outside of the office. Establishing mini breakroom areas reduces traffic to one central area of the office while still providing the essentials to keep the team fueled so they can work happy!
Q: For a year now, you have had conversations with hundreds of clients in NY and NJ offices regarding their concerns for safety in the office. What are some of the most significant take-aways?
- A: The greatest challenge for employers is regarding their ability to build confidence throughout the team for the return to a safer office. Creating a positive and exciting work environment is important now more than ever. Improving the quality and variety of the break room offerings entices people to make the trip to the office instead of staying home. Communication is critical. Be sure to over-communicate to your employees all of the details regarding your initiatives and new offerings. Communicating the solutions as well as the thought process behind the measures the company has taken for a safer, more comfortable, and inviting office is critical in building employees’ confidence.
Q: What are your recommendations for standard PPE in offices?
- A: Personal protective equipment is a must in the return to the office. Disposable masks and gloves should be available at all times to employees. Installing hand sanitizing stations is a constant reminder to either sanitize or wash hands frequently. Most people have formed the habit of unconsciously reaching for sanitizer just by seeing it out. Lobby and reception areas are the “face” of the company’s safety philosophy to guests. Hand sanitizer, visitor logs, masks and gloves, should all be common practice in these highly visible, “first impression” areas.
- The air quality and cleanliness are equally as important. Air purification units, such as the Beyond Guardian Air, are a way to “show” employees and guests that the air within the space is being circulated, purified, and sanitized. The Beyond Guardian Air additionally provides an added layer of surface sanitization protection by simply keeping the units running.
In summary, the best way to transition employees back to the office is a process. It starts with a virtual assessment with well-trained and experienced professionals. The next step is to implement the recommendations as described in this interview. Finally, communicate and send your employees WFH (work from home) kits with PPE and information about the new office environment…maybe include a few of the new individually packaged snacks. Offer a virtual tour to your work-from-home employees so they can experience the initiatives that will provide a safer, comfortable, and more inviting office. Corporate Essentials is here to guide you in your plans and needs to return to the office. New times require new thinking, and we are equipped with the tools, technology, and products that make for peace of mind among your employees. We’d be happy to help you reimagine your space with a complimentary virtual or on-site break room assessment.