Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

In break rooms, most companies have cordoned off dining areas and rendered shared refrigerators off-limits. What once was a place where co-workers chatted or jockeyed for fridge space likely will be empty.

“We have closed our cafeteria food service, given the potential for touch contamination, and have limited seating available in the cafeteria,” said Lauren Russ, spokeswoman for Baxter International, which is restricting attendance at its Deerfield, Illinois, headquarters to 20%.

Kraft Heinz’ Chicago corporate headquarters occupies floors 72 to 76 in the Aon Center, and those floors are only accessible through shared elevators. That’s a long, shared ride for an employee to take each time they want to go on a coffee or food run.

“Safely facilitating coffee breaks, snacks and lunch is a crucial component of our return to office planning,” Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. “We are considering many different options, from prepackaged foods to delivery options with local food providers.”

What of the communal coffee pot? In some, but not all, workplaces, it’s likely to disappear. At Echo Global Logistics, where 50 to 60 of the company’s 1,500 Chicago employees have returned, the coffee is again brewing, but new rules are attached to grabbing a caffeine pick-me-up.

Signs tell workers how to use a sanitary wipe to hold the coffee handle while they pour, ensuring no one actually touches the pot. And if they slip, it won’t be long before someone on the facilities team comes by to disinfect, said Paula Frey, chief human resources officer at the logistics company.

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