Cast your mind back to the start of 2020, and many of us would have been anticipating a year filled with travel. Fast forward to today, it goes without saying that last year didn’t quite go as planned. As we look back over the last year, one unexpected outcome is the ‘new normal’ of remote work. Doing your job from your couch was undoubtedly less mainstream before the coronavirus – and even stigmatised, but COVID-19 has seen workers around the world shifting to work from home arrangements on a scale never seen before.
Even before the Singapore government introduced Circuit Breaker measures last April to help curb the spread of the virus, many offices had already shuttered until further notice. Employers, especially the HR or People teams understood the importance of employee wellbeing, and most importantly keeping the workforce safe. We have learned that it isn’t always necessary to head into the office every day, thanks to Zoom, Google Hangouts and Slack, now everyday essentials that allow companies to connect virtually. But remote working brings new challenges, in particular making sure that employees still feel engaged, connected and rewarded while working outside of the office, away from colleagues.
Food can bring people together in a way nothing else can. But, when working from home, some of the pleasures and benefits of food just aren’t the same. Colleagues can no longer catch up socially over a long lunch, gather around the office pantry, or take a break over afternoon tea or coffee. In a country like Singapore, where eating is the national pastime, rather than letting the benefits of food slip to the wayside, companies instead have a new and exciting opportunity to bring people together through food-based rewards and activities. With virtual gift cards, or vouchers for meals, to drinks and grocery deliveries, businesses can help overcome the disappointment of not being able to enjoy holiday get togethers over food with teammates, and instead give employees a truly thoughtful gift, one that’s all about forging connections over delicious food and drink.
See also: Real-Value Benefits of Lunches With Your Co-Workers
In fact, many organisations are already rewarding their people with the gift of great food. Since April 2020, Deliveroo has seen a 500% increase in sales of virtual gift cards as firms in Singapore look for new ways to engage and reward employees amidst COVID-19. This has been accompanied by a 400% increase in organisations in Singapore joining Deliveroo for Business, which helps companies access office catering, corporate food delivery, and digital gift cards to reward employees. Deliveroo’s data also shows companies have moved from providing a shared catered lunch in the office to individual meal allowances for virtual team lunches.
There are many benefits to offering food delivery gift cards and vouchers. They are easy to use and enable each employee to choose how best to spend their reward, so it’s a personalised gift that everyone can enjoy. One employee might choose a special meal to share with their spouse, another a virtual lunch with a colleague, or even use their gift to purchase grocery items from Marks & Spencer, Blu Kouzina Mart or Ryan’s Grocery, all of which have recently joined Deliveroo under our new on-demand grocery delivery offering. While the gift of food in our current COVID-19 world can feel like a thoughtful treat, it also helps uplift employees’ spirits; often having access to a delicious meal for themselves or their family can make all the difference on a busy day.
In Singapore, a nation of foodies, getting together for a meal with friends or colleagues is an important way to bond, let off steam, bounce ideas off one another, and generate new kinds of creative energy. Findings from a recent Deliveroo lunch habits study that surveyed 1,004 working professionals in Singapore show that eating together plays a key role in cultivating an engaged and productive workplace, with over 80% of employees yearning to eat together with colleagues especially amidst COVID-19, and three in four (76%) stating they would like to do so to bond and get to know each other better. In the same study, seven in 10 (73%) office workers agreed that teams are happier and more productive after eating lunch together and slightly over a third (37%) of respondents admitted they worked harder after eating with their colleagues.
When COVID-19 first hit the world, many offices had to postpone annual dinners with the hope of possibly rescheduling later in the year. With Singapore now easing restrictions and allowing groups of up to eight only to socialise together under phase three, it’s clear that workplaces need other options to enjoy a meal together, instead of indefinitely postponing meaningful occasions, such as Christmas or Lunar New Year, especially since many companies still run split team arrangements. Delivery options make it easy for every employee to order their own meal courtesy of the office, virtually gather together for some good conversation, games or even performances as a group while they partake in a new kind of team dinner event.
With vaccines to be made free for all Singaporeans this year, and the countries rollout now in full swing we all can’t wait to meet in person with friends, family or colleagues we may not have seen for months. But, in the words of PM Lee, we know that the COVID-19 virus has not been eradicated. We anticipate we will continue to live with the virus for some time – and consequently work from home will remain as the default. Therefore, now is the time for businesses to utilise digital platforms to help employees feel connected and rewarded for their continuous hard work.
As we look to the rest of the year ahead, none of us knows what the future holds, but one thing that never changes is that people are the heart of every business. Each and every person in the workforce is every company’s most valuable asset. One of the many positives to take away from an otherwise challenging year is the opportunities to change for the better, and the long term. It’s time to focus our efforts on helping our people connect and bond with each other more closely, even when they’re physically far apart. In 2021, consider giving your employees the virtual gift of food, whether it’s for a Lunar New Year Lo Hei, halal bento boxes for Ramadan, delicious cakes for a birthday, or even just an end-week treat. It’s still workplace food, but re-imagined for the new normal.
Jeanette Smerin is the Head of Deliveroo for Business, Hong Kong & Singapore. She launched Deliveroo’s first catering menus globally since March 2020, allowing customers to place large orders up to a month in advance with a superior van delivery experience. As of today, she and her team have launched more than 50 catering menus in Hong Kong featuring major types of Asian and western cuisines. In addition to serving Deliveroo for Business corporate customers, Jeanette has also led the team to expand their catering services to other types of customers and occasions, including home dinner parties, hospitals, and junk boat parties.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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