Will coronavirus spark end of office tea round and communal birthday treats?

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·3-min read
Birthday treats might be a thing of the past. (Getty Images)
Birthday treats might be a thing of the past. (Getty Images)

Whether you love them or loathe them, it’s undeniable that the office tea round is a staple part of the UK’s office culture.

That is, of course, until the coronavirus pandemic sent ripples through all of our usual workplace protocol.

As well as adjusting the office environment to match COVID-19 secure policies, little things like the office tea round and bringing in birthday treats may be a thing of the past.

New research has found that people are less than thrilled about the idea of a colleague making them tea in a post-lockdown workplace.

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More than half of people surveyed by UMOVIS Lab revealed their anxiety over the standard office tea round, with most thinking it’ll be a thing of the past.

One in four went as far as to say they wouldn’t want their colleague to make them a drink full-stop during this time.

30% of people will re-start their office life by bringing in their own mug and shunning the communal mugs of years gone by. 27% will also bring in their own cutlery in an attempt to avoid using office-dwelling utensils altogether.

Where does that leave the workplace when it comes to office treats, then? Birthday cakes, bake-offs and Friday snacks are part and parcel of the office experience, but people aren’t feeling much like sharing in a post-COVID-19 landscape.

More than a fifth of people involved in the survey thinks that the pandemic will wave goodbye to office bake sales and not just while COVID-19 is still around, but after it’s gone, too.

Read more: The rules around going out for dinner

The biggest worry for those who are beginning to filter back into the workplace is colleagues who have travelled by public transport, the study found.

Almost three quarters of people said they found the idea of sharing an office with people who are regularly frequenting public transport uncomfortable.

At the moment, public transport is one of the only places where face masks are mandatory in England, signifying an increased risk in places with poor ventilation and the inability to social distance. This is under constant review, with Boris Johnson now saying that people in England “should be wearing” face masks in shops, too.

These aren’t just concerns that span until the pandemic is just a thing of the past, though. Many people think that our increased concern about hygiene is something that will stay present in the workplace for far longer than COVID-19.

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There were encouraging trends to come out of the data, too.

People said they’d feel a lot more comfortable if floor markings were put in place around the office to ensure people don’t get too close.

Others will make themselves feel better about returning to work by bringing in their own soap and hand sanitisers instead of using the communal options.

It seems the more the workplace gets cleaned, the happier people would feel about returning to work, with a staggering 86% of people already confirming that they think their workplaces should be cleaned more often than they are.

The top ten office behaviours we’re more likely to see post-lockdown are:

1. Washing and sanitising your hands more often
2. Regularly cleaning your own workspace e.g. keyboard, computer, mouse
3. Never shaking hands with colleagues/ clients
4. Not touching anyone else’s computer/mouse/keyboard
5. No longer hugging colleagues/ clients
6. More flexible working e.g. work part time in the office
7. Avoiding hot-desking
8. Going outside for more walks/fresh air
9. Not using anyone else’s desk phone
10. Taking in your own mug rather than using communal mugs