Returning to Work and The New Normal

By Liz Forte, Health and Wellness Director
at Compass Group UK & Ireland

At Compass, we provide workplace catering solutions that keep staff healthy, happy and productive, in order to drive productivity and business performance. We’re used to serving approximately 250,000 meals in 700 food sites every single day – however, like everyone else, we are now navigating our way towards a ‘new normal’.  We are facing challenges, but we also see an opportunity. Opportunity to reinvent and improve the ways in which we work, to help the way you work.

At a time when we’ve been asked to stay socially and physically distant, food has helped us all to stay connected. It has become a global obsession, with people sharing their home-baking, new dinner recipes, experimenting with new cuisines and learning new skills as a family.

We have seen two clear camps emerge, the first of which being people who have used this time to get fit and healthy with more free time to focus on their fitness and eat well without naughty temptations, including staying away from alcohol, and the increase in focus on vitamin supplements to boost and support the immune system. That being said, we have also seen a spike in sales and consumption of food and drinks such as alcohol and snacks, traditionally associated with indulgence, comfort or leisure as consumers are comfort eating and drinking to curb their boredom or their anxieties.
 
So when we are imagining our returning consumers in the workplace, we can assume that those who developed healthy habits while in lockdown will be looking to continue with this mindset and those who enjoyed the slower pace of life, too many glasses of wine and indulgent foods, will most likely see returning to work as an opportunity to ‘get back on the wagon’ – much like the January mentality, post-Christmas indulgence. We can therefore tailor our menus and offers to suit the needs of our returners and fuel them with all the right things to keep them happy, productive and feeling good.
 
We all thought that when we return to work, it would be like a big reunion party with everyone heading in together.

I think we’re coming to terms with the fact it’s going to be a slow and phased introduction back to office working. We’re looking at how this has changed consumers attitudes, and for the first time we have seen cleanliness above taste in a ranking of priorities when choosing where to eat. So, we are developing ways to reassure people that health, safety and hygiene is at the forefront of everything we do, this ranges from clear signage, implementing and communicating processes, making paying cashless and packaging up meals for people to take away.  
While we face challenges getting our offer right for our returners, there also comes new opportunity to enhance their experience in the workplace beyond their 9-5 hours. As we go back to work, trips to the supermarket will become even less convenient than they are now, with our window of opportunity to shop decreased. Consumers will be searching for products and solutions they trust which fit into their working day and commute. Therefore, providing nutritious, convenient locally sourced food packages and ingredients to take home from the workplace could significantly reduce stress and enhance efficiency and happiness, while ensuring people continue to make healthy choices once they leave the workplace too.
 
But it’s not just about the food. As people adjust to a new normal, they will undoubtedly have experienced anxiety related to time spent in lockdown and financial insecurity or uncertainty and returning to a new socially distant form of work where it is harder to connect with colleagues will take its toll and leave an impact. Therefore, now more than ever it is crucial to offer more than just food. Going beyond food and offering Mindfulness, Yoga or Pilates sessions can be extremely beneficial. Additionally, leisure classes such as cooking, arts and crafts or access to a regular nutritionist could be key to adjusting back to new routines and practices. Our new normal should be one that integrates nutrition,  physical and mental wellbeing.
 
I know I am looking forward to returning to the office, seeing colleagues and will be getting back on the wagon!


Liz Forte, Health and Wellness Director
at Compass Group UK & Ireland