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The Return to Work is Not Business as Usual 

Well, we’re here—companies are bringing employees back to the workplace after the 2020 Year of the Temporary Shift to Remote Work. Now what?

At the 2021 midpoint, it’s clear that working from home has permanently changed the workplace and work life for lots of people and organizations; for many, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. But as employees return to the office in some way, shape or form, companies understand that it won’t be business as usual. 

Employee expectations and priorities have changed, sometimes dramatically, since COVID-19 emerged. In a recent blog post on their hybrid workplace model, Microsoft noted, “the modern workplace requires companies to meet new employee expectations, connect a more distributed workforce, and provide tools to create, innovate and work together to solve business problems.” 

With that in mind, organizations from SMBs to global enterprises are offering innovative perks and incentives designed to both keep their current workforce content and attract new talent. 

Return-to-Work Perks: Food and Flexibility Are Key

After working from home for a year, employees want a safe and enjoyable work environment that may even offer some of the comforts of home. On the flip side, companies want to keep their teams happy and productive, and to do so, need to reenergize their corporate culture (and teams!) after a year-plus of being apart. That means coming up with new ideas to reward and motivate their returning teams as workplaces reopen—incentives that reflect employees’ key concerns and interests: safety, food, and flexibility. 

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Food, Glorious Food

Food and workplace culture often go hand in hand. Co-workers love to celebrate wins and milestones (or just like hanging out together over coffee), and often this means team lunches, breakfasts, and snacks. 

But in the post-pandemic workplace, food at work will have to change. The break room may look different now to keep employees safe and companies will have to find new ways to offer food perks and office parties, such as: 

  • In-house pantries and mini-marts so people don’t have to leave the office for a quick snack
  • Individually wrapped grab-and-go snacks and meals, custom individual snack boxes, or boxed lunches
  • Low-touch or no-touch options including app-driven coffee stations and food service robots that can prepare fresh salads, poke bowls and breakfast parfaits

Keep Them Safe

Are your team members hesitant about returning to the office? Show them some love and let them know you’re doing everything you can to make the space a COVID-safe workplace. It’s easier than you may think—really! While some upgrades are a heavier lift than others, such as major mechanical improvements (HVAC enhancements, touchless elevators and entryways), companies can take on these simple upgrades to make sure their employees feel safe when they come back:

  • Provide personal protective equipment, including masks and hand sanitizer
  • Have UV light sanitizers on hand for common areas, surfaces—even mobile devices
  • Use nanoseptic film on high-touch surfaces and areas

Bend and Flex

Finally, after a year of working from home, employees say flexibility will be a key expectation and priority. A recent survey from HR consultancy Mercer shows 56% of employees say that flexibility is very important, and for millennial and Gen X employees, it’s the most important factor in looking for a job.

Companies looking to attract and retain top talent are offering hybrid options for returning to the office, and variations such as: 

  • Alternating in-office work with remote work, either by day or by week
  • Staggered work times to improve the commute, and commuter perks like parking vouchers, and fuel or transportation stipends
  • Split days—working half the day in the office, the other half from home

After a year of working from home in yoga pants while confronting “Zoom Gloom” on an almost daily basis, people are looking forward to a better work-life balance—and companies that bend and flex in the post-COVID world. Need some guidance on how to bring positive vibes to your office? Looking for ideas on making a smooth transition to getting teams back to your location? Contact our sales team for a break room assessment or a consultation about how to make it all happen at (973) 402-1088.

Reimagine Your Break Room

Judson Kleinman

As the founder and CEO of Corporate Essentials, Judson set out with every intention of bringing a new meaning to the words "office culture". As leaders in the industry, his company constantly sets the bar by investing in, and improving their product offerings, technology, people and training. 20 years and 1500 clients later, Judson can proudly say that Corporate Essentials continues to positively fuel culture and allow over 150,000 employees to work happy.