The Future of The Office Lunch

Home-baked muffins, bottomless candy bowls, coffee shop catch-ups and team potlucks were a pre-pandemic workday highlight. As we start to settle back into office life, the question is, how do we deal with shared time, shared meals and shared spaces? And how does the modified “lunchroom” effect how we work as a team?

Staples talked to workplace experts for their tips on how we can all adapt to the new world of work.

Modern manners

“Every place of business is a culture unto itself,” says Julie Blais Comeau, a certified business etiquette expert specializing in interpersonal skills for professional success in the workplace. “What’s important is for the [business] to take the lead. People want to know how to behave.”

Navigating the new reality

Lunch time has always been about taking a moment to wind down and connect with one another. And as we move into this new era of work, it should be no different.

It’s easy to assume that if you don’t feel comfortable using a shared refrigerator you can just get takeout, but others may not have that choice. Involve all employees and find out what makes everyone comfortable — and uncomfortable. “It’s important to look at breakroom policies through different lenses,” says Sandra Vyse, National Director of Sales and Strategy – Furniture, Tech, Print, Promo at Staples Professional.

Most importantly, give individuals the tools, and spaces they need. These might be labels and markers in the kitchen or breakroom, so they can use them as required on their food, belongings or in the space itself. Or a big whiteboard so employees can leave messages, thoughts and ideas for all to see. It could also even mean large open spaces where people can still see one another and catch up in a safe environment.

Invest in safety

“Safety is a savvy investment,” says Vyse. Multiple layers of protection, such as physical distancing, hand washing, limiting time near others, good ventilation, and masks have all been proven to help reduce the risk of exposure to viruses.

You might consider bringing in air filtration devices. Or, reconfigure furniture by adding a large, round table with dividers so that people can eat with an additional layer of protection. Providing employees with items such as hand sanitizer, wipes, sustainable lunch kits, and other PPE essentials can also go a long way in helping everyone stay safe. You might also want to consider swapping high-touch coffee pots to K-Cups, and bulk snacks in containers (like nuts or candy) to individually packaged snacks. Make these items easily accessible, to reduce contact with door handles and the like. Through Staples Preferred, small to medium businesses can procure items like these through a tailored purchasing program that offers customized pricing so you can stay on budget.

Some might be concerned about increased waste due to single-serve and single-use products, so involve them in purchasing decisions and ask them for ideas on reducing waste while staying safe.

Make accommodations

The goal of good manners is to make people feel comfortable and confident. “It has to do with honouring and celebrating employees,” Dumais Comeau says. When a work environment reflects that philosophy, team members will be on board.

One of the best ways to get this message across is to show good faith actions. This may mean repurposing a conference room into a lunchroom so that people can practice social distancing while eating. It may mean relaxing rules about taking lunch at your desk. Other solutions could include creating an outdoor eating area, staggering break times, or meeting over Zoom for a virtual or hybrid lunch so that everyone feels included.

Do what works

Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to reimagine breaking bread, but putting safety and the wellbeing of everyone on the team first will ultimately result in a happier, more productive workplace.

Learn how Staples Preferred can help you save money on the products needed to help you reimagine the breakroom.

By Staples Canada

November 04, 2021

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