Awards Back to News

Return from Covid: Office plans

It is now almost 4 months from the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, and companies are planning their return to the office, including on-site services for their returning employees and guests.

In the first week of July, we collated office return plans for almost 50 clients – representing a combination of technology, banking, media, insurance and professional services companies across London and the UK.  This gives us a great snapshot of how Britain’s white-collar companies are thinking about their post-covid phased return to the office.

Through the lockdown, office catering hasn’t gone away:  four in 10 clients currently have on site catering for their employees – mostly cafés, vending and grab-and-go.

When it comes to controlling the return of employees to the office, we found great variation, with some clients planning multiple measures (e.g., red and blue split-teams, individual approval forms), and others not using any control measures at all.  Projections of numbers coming back into the office are pretty consistent, with most clients expecting less than 10% until September, and then a ramp-up to 30-50% by the end of the year.

80% of clients expect to have some form of staff catering in the office by September (with grab and go and coffee the most popular options).  50% of clients expect that hospitality will be on offer by the end of the year.

Overall this survey provides a picture of a thoughtful staged return, with catering planned as a key service, introduced well in time to welcome the first significant tranches of office-returners, later in the summer.


What catering is on offer right now?

40% of offices already have some form of food and drink offer available to employees on site today.

The type of catering on offer right now varies quite a lot.  Over a quarter of clients are providing a café for staff, while almost one-fifth are providing vending and almost one-fifth have a restaurant open offering grab-and-go.  Only 8% are using a bespoke catering option such as made-to-order.

What conditions will apply to employees returning to the workplace?

We looked at the conditions clients are planning to introduce, to control the return of employees to the office through July and August.  A minority of clients are applying rules-based conditions (see below).  However, among those clients using conditions, half are applying all three, suggesting there is a wide variation in the level of limitation that companies want to introduce regarding office return post-coronavirus.

We also looked at what desk use policies clients are planning on using, as this will affect the density of office population.  The majority of clients (56%) have declared that they will ensure that employees all have their own dedicated desk when they return to the office.  Less than 5% have said that they will allow desk sharing on return to the office.  The rest have yet to confirm their policy.


How soon will employees be returning to the workplace?

The vast majority of companies (90%) anticipate that even in August, their office population will be 10% of pre-covid levels or less.  This is expected to change in September, by which time over a third of companies expect 20% or more of their employees to be back in the office.

However, most companies expect the return to ramp up over the remainder of the year:  by the end of 2020, a third of companies forecast office occupancy of 50% or higher.

… and how soon will staff dining and hospitality return?

While companies are expecting that numbers returning to the office this year will be low, the great majority (80%) expect staff catering to return by September.  While we would expect a slower return for hospitality services (meeting room catering and fine dining), more than half of clients believe that hospitality will have restarted in some form by the end of this year.  It seems that the general expectation is for employee activity in the office (and catering) to begin in earnest after the summer holidays, with guest services ramping up in the last quarter of the year.

When employees come back to site, what will the catering offer look like?

Finally, we looked at what catering services our clients want to have on site within their first 3 months of return to office life.  Two-thirds of clients are planning to offer grab and go and a coffee shop offer.  Services enabled by new technologies are also being planned, with one in three clients looking at providing click-and-collect, and one in five providing click-and-deliver.

More articles