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The even newer new normal

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Several of your Sodexo UK & Ireland colleagues have been returning to our central offices since 1 September, and in the process have discovered a whole new experience.

Overall, colleagues have told us that the feeling of coming back to the office was a safe, reassuring and familiar one, with a sense of ease returning very quickly.

Lisa Miller at Stevenage told us: “It was weird going back to the office – it was like the first day on the job all over again, with the funny tummy feeling. It was the little things that made it feel safe though, like the presence of cleaners and the toilets smelling of bleach!”

There’s been lots for people to notice when it comes to keeping our people safe, and everyone we spoke to echoed how that reassuring feeling runs throughout the office buildings.

Sue Myers at Salford was given a warm welcome on her return: “The reception staff were there to welcome me back with a friendly smile and gave me a bag containing information about the new set up. I also got hand sanitiser, a door opener and stylus. It was obvious from the moment I walked in that the company is doing as much as possible and providing lots of guidance and support.”

“There are new systems to get used to, and some of them go against what would be convenient, but we all know by now that convenience goes out of the window when there’s a global pandemic, and it’s all about keeping each other safe.”

For those venturing in over the coming weeks, colleagues had some top pointers on getting back into the flow of working from the office again, especially when it comes to packing your bag the night before :

  • With many having taken equipment such as monitors and chairs home, check with your manager and local facilities team that the desk you’ll be using can be ‘re-stocked’ with the equipment you need in advance of your return.
  • Although Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) isn't required to work in the office, perhaps consider bringing a face mask if you decide to pop to the shops on your lunch.
  • Hand sanitiser is available across our central offices, especially in places like outside the loos, but a little personal bottle may come in handy if you feel like you need it.
  • Keep a phone charger handy - sometimes we forget at home that mobile chargers can be hard to come by in the office.
  • Don't forget your cables - things like your keyboard, mouse and even laptop charger can be easy to forget, isn't that right Rachel?!

“Don’t underestimate how many things you haven’t thought about in six months!” says Rachel Edis in our Salford office. “Give yourself a good bit of extra time the night before to check things like the location of your ID badge, car pass, a decent bag for your laptop and all the bits you may need during the day – I forgot my mouse on my first day back in the office - and of course plan for breakfast in advance!”

Speaking of breakfast, catering has certainly been close to the top of the priority list for those returning (and who can blame them, we’ve all been millimetres away from our own kitchen cupboard for months).

“At the moment, there’s no food offer on site, but shops are still quiet so it’s easy to grab lunch – and the walk across to the shops is a welcome break from the working day that I’ve actually really missed whilst at home. Getting the fresh air feels so much better than moving between the dining table and the fridge! I’d forgotten what a difference those little punctuations in the working day make”, admitted Lisa.

The colleagues we spoke to offered the following top tips on food and drink:

  • If the weather plays ball, scope out somewhere nice to sit out for lunch – if you’re in the office you may find that the more communal seating areas are out of action for now.
  • Snacks are key - if you like to munch down during your working day, remember to bring some snacks with you to satisfy your sweet or savoury tooth.
  • Bring milk and clearly label it for your own use if you want to make hot drinks.
  • If you want to bring in your own food, don’t forget cutlery too – it’s easier to bring your own and take it home to wash than to find disposable cutlery (and of course, it’s better for the environment).

As well as the practical elements, it’s no surprise that those who’ve returned so far have enjoyed the social aspect of working from the office, although they’re still missing more friendly faces. Jen Bishop at Salford confessed: “I returned to the office this week expecting a buzz of people – but it’s just not there yet.”

Ethel Moyo agreed: “By mid-morning it felt like I hadn’t been away. There were six of us in on our floor on one of the days, which was lovely as we got to interact with each other and share our lockdown experiences, but it was quiet. I hope more people join us soon.”

And what about those looking for that ‘normal working day’ feeling? Well, the office opening hours might just be the answer…

“I must admit, it was strangely nice to have a start and finish time to my day that was set for me”, said Tim Compton. “So many of us have gotten used to a more than flexible working day, that it was great to actually close down the laptop on leaving the office, and leave it closed.”

Of course, if any Government guidance changes which affects our position on office use, we’ll update everyone straight away. The new rules around social gatherings which come in to effect from today do not affect use of the central offices, so please consider returning to the office when you feel it is safe to do so - we hope to see you soon


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