Food at Work: What it Means Returning to the Office

photo of person using laptop

As the booster vaccine rollout commences in the coming weeks and lockdown is long over, businesses are open and operating, but it is still important to prioritise health and safety in the office as COVID-19 is still a risk.  In order to ensure the wellbeing of those going into work regularly, workplaces must carry out thorough COVID-19 safety procedures and make sensible adjustments in compliance with government guidelines to ensure that the office remains COVID-secure.

A COVID-secure workplace has:

  • Carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Obtained the required cleaning and implemented hygiene procedures
  • Taken all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance in the workplace where possible
  • Taken all reasonable steps to help people work safely from the workplace or home

What does a COVID-secure workplace mean for food at work?

A core part of the office experience that is also inherently social, is eating food at work. In a pre-pandemic world, employees might quickly pop out to grab a bite, or sit together with co-workers in lunch meetings or break out spaces with freshly prepared food from the canteen or a local restaurant.

However, in a world where COVID-19 is still a threat, employees cannot yet go back to their normal habits or experiences. 

Government guidance is to establish one-way systems in the office, have ventilation and open-air systems in place, and require negative results in lateral flow and rapid tests for employees coming into the workplace. Guidance from leading experts is to limit access to the kitchen and stagger break times, limit contact between the kitchen workers and other employees (also when on breaks), have screens between equipment in larger kitchens, arrange seating in break areas and only allow one person at a time to get things from the pantry, fridge or freezer.

While the U.K. is slowly moving towards fully reopening, it is important to slowly phase between in-person and remote working. The hybrid approach allows employees more flexibility and provides an easier transition from working from home to going into the office regularly. 

Businesses have been advised to limit the amount of people in the workplace at a time, to allow proper social distancing procedures to stay intact. Which begs the question, how are employees going to grab a safe bite to eat whilst at work?

It is also advised that employers provide packaged meals or encourage employees to bring food from home. However, many businesses may not have the infrastructure or budget to be able to provide both healthy and packaged meals at scale, and meals prepared at home can sometimes lack the nutritional value and variety that help boost physical and mental wellbeing, as well as the immune system and feelings of self-worth

Tech solutions like Feedr’s Cloud Canteen will make the return to work easier for businesses who want to foster a sense of continuity by providing employees with a safe, practical and efficient way to go about this daily routine.

How Feedr can support businesses during this transition 

Swapping catering and buffet style meals to individual boxes

Getting together for a team lunch or having a morning pow-wow over a pastry platter will be impractical as offices practice safe social distancing procedures.

With Feedr’s Cloud Canteen platform, businesses are able to flexibly switch to individually boxed formats (with recyclable and compostable packaging), enabling co-workers to stay socially distanced – and well fed.

Help staff avoid the need to wait and enter local grab-and-go chains for their daily lunches

Helping employees to avoid the lunch rush at local eateries is another way companies can protect their workforce. 

Businesses using Cloud Canteen are able to add a click and collect shelf point within their office building, enabling staff to order their meals and safely collect them, saving long queuing times and close proximity to other people in local restaurants.

Supporting on-site restaurants and canteens with digital technology 

Feedr’s pre-order and pre-payment app allows on-site canteens to achieve social distancing by enabling payments via app rather than in-person. This offers staff a safe pick-up option by using collection points and notifications when food is ready to collect.

Catering to a fluctuating headcount

It’s expected that there will be a slow, phased return to work, with a lot of daily fluctuation on the office headcount. Office managers, who may usually order food in advance for a set or known number of people, will need to find new ways to cater to employees that avoids overspending and reduces food waste when employees aren’t in.

With Feedr’s Cloud Canteen technology and flexible individual ordering, employees place orders themselves for when they are in the office. This means that the only food arriving at the office is for staff members who are there. If employers are subsidising these meals for employees, they’ll ultimately only be paying when meals are ordered. 

Support the health and immunity of your workforce 

Right now, health and wellness matters more than ever. Eating nutritious, healthy food at home and when we return to work will stand us in good stead should we get ill.

For businesses looking to offer their workforce a wellness perk, be safe in the knowledge that nutrition is built into the heart of Feedr’s platform, but no worries, we serve more than soups and salads!

We work with a huge variety of vendors who are all vetted for their health creds as well as their quality. We also provide full nutritional information for every single dish and enable staff to set food goals to help them maintain a healthy diet whilst in the office.

In Conclusion…

The use of digital technology for ordering and managing office food is going to be more important than ever in the new hybrid remote and in-person working methods.

Feedr is dedicated to supporting businesses during this uncertain time and helping them to achieve a COVID-secure workplace. 

We also want to ensure the food at work experience is as exciting and delightful as possible, so we continue to build features and content that employees will love engaging with.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 10 March 2021 and has been updated along with the UK Government COVID-19 guidelines and our understanding of what it means for food at work.