Companies are using food to attract employees back tooffice

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Companies are using food to attract employees back tooffice

Companies from Havas SA to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are hoping the way through their workers' hearts is through their stomachs as they try to lure employees back in office.

One of the most vocal supporters of bringing everyone back even allows those meals to be enjoyed on Plumtree Court's landscaped roof garden once reserved for clients and visiting royalty.

Food plays a much more central part in office life and businesses are using their food offers to try and influence behavior, said Robin Mills, U.K. and Ireland Managing Director at catering company Compass Group Plc. "We are now a part of these new conversations and reopening work as companies think about how to get people back.

After more than a year of empty offices and zoom calls, pandemic restrictions are easing and firms are trying to figure out how to manage in-office working plans. With uncertainty over whether Britain's vaccine regimen will contain the fast-spreading delta variant, some workers don't want to return to the office at all. Companies tread a fine line, allowing flexibility while trying to innovate office space and fill expensive culture.

Xavier Rees, Chief Executive Officer of Havas London, said the media group was 'demonstrably better when we are in office' and the priority is to get people back when possible. 'Not five days a week, but certainly more often than not without robbing them of the new freedoms discovered in lockdown.

Havas, a Compass client, is using food to that end, investing in its in-house kitchen, café and coffee shop and allowing employees to make menu suggestions. Revamped and heavily subsidized options include healthy meals on wellness Wednesdays and menus inspired by global events, holidays and cultural cuisines. It will offer free lunches in August on Mondays and Fridays.

'We've prioritized the kind of amenities that make office attractive and food is a really important part of that, Rees said in an emailed statement. This isn't a big selling point before pandemic -- but this kind of thing has become even more important as we try to encourage people back into the office.

Janus HendersonHenderson Group Plc, which offered highly subsidized three-course meals for just a few pounds in its City of London office before the pandemic, is now offering all food for free. The asset management group, which has set a general guidance of spending two days a week in office, 'can't say what our future working model will be, but we want to retain the best of office-based and remote working, a spokesman said.

Workspace Group Plc, which provides flexible office space across central London, is upgrading on site cafes to maintain a ‘social buzz’ throughout its buildings.

'With more businesses returning to the office, our cafes are becoming increasingly important, said Will Abbot, the firm's chief customer officer.

Further afield, Amazon.com Inc. also funds more than 100,000 cups of coffee for employees in its North American hubs, but the surge of delta variant prompted the online giant to tell employees that they won't have to return to the office regularly until January.

Some businesses are using food to help manage other objectives such as equaling attendance during the five days of the week or catering to changing work patterns, according to Compass.

For example, some are beefing up food options on Mondays and Fridays when fewer people come in the office. Others provide more 'twilight food' options between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to accommodate those who come in fewer days of the week but work longer hours when they do.

Some businesses are more concerned about encouraging a social return while Covid 19 remains a threat, are introducing app ordering and 'hot lockers' so food can be delivered to employees to limit wholesale mixing in canteens.

Fintech Revolut Ltd. which moved to wholesale flexible work, isn't pushing for a permanent return anytime soon and is repurposing its Canary Wharf office into collaboration spaces with tech companies behind them. Microsoft Inc. said that some employees could potentially work from home forever, while Adobe Inc. said coming into the office remains 'entirely voluntary at this time".

In a quarterly update last month, Compass said revenue from business and industry is still only at about 60% of 2019 levels given the slow pace of office returns. It expects total revenue to reach 80% of 2019 levels by the end of its fiscal year, helped in part by workers picking their way back to offices.

Mills said: 'We are finding that employers are keen to get back to work, said Manpower. 'We expect a positive fall in September when schools return and a normal return at the end of the year.