MADRID – Companies like Goldman Sachs and Havas hope the way to get employees back to their offices is through the stomach.
At Goldman Sachs, free breakfast, lunch and ice cream are part of the offer to persuade employees in offices in London, Hong Kong and New York to leave the comfort of their homes, where some have been working remotely since March 2020, at the start of the pandemic.
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The Bank, one of the biggest advocates of a full office return, even allows these meals to be enjoyed in the landscaped Plumtree Court Garden, the headquarters building, formerly reserved for guests and royal visitors.
“Food plays a more central role in office life, and companies have used their food offerings to try to influence behaviour,” said Robin Mills, managing director of Compass Catering UK and Ireland, adding:
“Now we’re an integral part of these conversations about reopening and this new world, as companies are thinking about how to bring people back.
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After more than a year of empty offices and zoom calls, the pandemic restrictions have eased and companies are trying to figure out how to manage office business plans.
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With uncertainty over whether the UK’s vaccination program will be able to stop the delta variant, some workers no longer want to return to the office. Companies are walking a fine line, allowing flexibility as they try to fill expensive office space and revitalize their business culture.
Xavier Rees, chief executive of Havas London, said the media group is “obviously better when we’re in the office” and that the priority is to get people back when possible.
“Not five days a week, but certainly more often than now, without robbing them of the new freedoms discovered in lockdown.
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Havas, a client of Compass, turns to food for this purpose, invests in the company’s kitchen, café and cafeteria, and allows employees to make menu suggestions.
Revamped and heavily subsidized options include healthy Wellness Wednesday meals and menus inspired by cultural events, holidays and international cuisine. The company will offer free lunches on Mondays and Fridays during August.
“We prioritize the kind of amenities that make office work attractive — and food is a really important part of that,” Reese said in an email statement.
“This isn’t new – it was a huge selling point before the pandemic – but this kind of thing became even more important when we started encouraging people to come back to the office.”
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