While working from home may be part of the new normal, Wendy Bartlett stresses the importance of connecting with each other over a good meal
The past four months have been a very unusual experience for most of us.
What has become apparent is the importance of food in any situation. It is central to our working lives and continues to be the highlight of the working day in my household. It is a comfort, an experience, a passion and it's sustenance, so we just can't do without it.
We are hearing a lot about how the new way forward is to work at home. Having done that for the past three months, I don't know how people want to do it full time! It's painful.
People need interaction, stimulation and connection with each other. While we will see people working at home more often, I can't see that we will ever live in a totally virtual, no office world – it would be too sad.
Can you imagine starting with a company and never physically meeting your colleagues or getting a sense of the culture? A friend was telling me about someone who has experienced that exact thing. Having started in lockdown, and now four months later, he has still not met anyone in person. He says he just can't get the nuances of the organisation and feels it's a very odd connection.
The glue of an organisation – the bit that gives you the incentive to work for people, not a company – is only formed when people get together. You can't sense that virtually.
More importantly, when we do first join an organisation, the real bonding is often done while eating or drinking together. We are social animals and we make our decisions about people in both work and social settings.
While there are so many uncertainties, what I do know is that food will always play a positive role in the workplace. Food can give us a sense of comfort when we gather together. Food can aid productivity, offer a sense of wellness and caring, and employers can use this as a benefit as we return to some sense of normality.
While there are so many uncertainties, what I do know do know is that food will always play a positive role in the workplace and the return to normality
When we eat together, we create social glue. We talk to each other on another level. It becomes less about business and we are able to be more creative. Collaboration, innovation and a sense of entrepreneurship will only come when you are able to relax and engage with those around you.
Zoom may work to some degree, but the distractions are greater, the quality of conversation and interaction is lower and I'm not sure all the interruptions and poor signals will continue to be acceptable.
People returning to their workplaces will expect that little bit extra; that's what will bring them back. Whether it's the doorman saying hello, the publican or barista knowing your name, or somebody remembering your ‘usual' order in the staff restaurant – these are the little joys that you will never be able to replicate at home.
This is what hospitality offers – comfort and an enjoyable experience that make you want to return.
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