As employees start to slowly head back to the office, if even for just a day or two a week, they notice that things look a bit different from what they did in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers and employees to look at how they approach workplace safety. Though most policies and procedures focused more specifically on safety intended to prevent injury, today’s organizations now need to look at how they can lessen the office’s risk of health concerns.
But what does this mean for the breakroom? In the past, the breakroom provided a daily escape for employees looking to refuel and recharge before returning to their desks. Employees had the opportunity to interact with one another socially, enjoying a polite or fun conversation as they broke bread together. But now, especially when we have families and loved ones at home to protect, how do employees use the breakroom? What does a meal look like? What if an employee wants a cup of coffee or a can of soda?
For many companies, complimentary coffee is a benefit provided to their employees. And if you are someone who can’t fully function without that cup of joe (or five) each morning, then the concept of an inaccessible breakroom without coffee is horrifying. Thankfully, today’s office managers and business leaders think differently about providing employees with the benefits they enjoy and have come to expect, but doing it safer than in the past.
Many organizations have looked to create coffee stations throughout the office. Though this might seem as dangerous as a dedicated breakroom, this concept of multiple coffee stations among us is usually paired with an assigned roster of who uses each station. Limiting the number of employees that can access a station helps to lower the risk of disease spread. Further, when hand sanitizers and nitrile gloves are provided at the station, masked employees can further do their part.
Other organizations have created contactless breakrooms retrofitted with touchless machines that allow employees to access with foot pedals or forearms. These machines are often outfitted with anti-microbial films, making it easier for janitorial staff to disinfect equipment periodically throughout the day.
When visiting the breakroom, employees will be expected to wear their masks and disinfect their hands upon entry and exit. Coffee and soda machines still managed by hand will need employees to don gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE) before operating.
Other organizations are considering an investment in internal coffee shops, similar to a Starbucks but on a smaller scale. In these make-shift cafes, coffee and beverages for purchase are served by employees in much the same fashion as a Starbucks or other coffee shop. Employees wear their PPE and wash hands frequently during their shifts. Coffee and beverage equipment is washed down throughout the day as well.
Ultimately, the future office breakroom will be different from what it has been in the past. Employees, suppliers, and janitorial workers alike will approach the environment differently. When people work together, that cup of joe will be easy to come by as it was in the past, but we’ll all be healthier for it.