The coffee machine hub

27 August 2020

A place where team members might gather, just for a minute or two, to refresh their cup of whatever beverage they have as their choice, and to pass the time of day, concerns, initiatives and the like with their colleagues. For some, for many, that oasis of work distraction is over, as they now work from home on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. You are not going to get many colleagues standing around in your kitchen passing the time of day.

Has something been lost? Yes. Could it be quantified? No. Was it vital to the general wellbeing of both the staff and the fabric of the business? Yes! Taking this further, is this a loss to city centres and office space towns? Certainly.

We are aware of some companies bringing their team members together through Zoom or MS Teams and asking managers to refrain from joining any agreed meeting until 10 minutes has elapsed to allow the coffee machine chat to be virtually enacted. Time will tell if this works, and I for one will be sorry to see any loss of appropriate camaraderie if interaction with colleagues simply becomes virtual.

Many people are motivated not by money or benefits, but by being part of something bigger and exciting that can be instilled by being a team member. And if this is lost, then loyalty may also be lost, because one Zoom meeting might be the same as the next, whoever you work for. With effective physical networking out of the question for the time being, it will be interesting to see if this void can be filled, again effectively. Now there is a challenge if ever I saw one!

Will alternative and additional benefits as part of a reviewed and renewed 'menu' service for employees help retain and attract the right staff members? This might be death in service benefits, health cover or pension contributions to name a few options. And if a business moves to a virtual basis, without the need for a large (and usually expensive) office, perhaps this cost benefit can be passed on to add value to team members now working from home.

Employee benefit 'menu' services are nothing new, although the new working situations we all find ourselves in may mean that some employers will need to review their proposition. Many use a 'fixed price' menu system, which details the total benefit package (the fixed price!) the employee can enjoy, and then providing them with the menu of benefits that they can select from. We feel it is important to detail to employees which benefits are not taxable, such as death in service cover, and which are, such as private medical insurance. Perhaps reaching out with a survey of the team might help with the focus of any new inclusive benefits arrangements.

Time will tell what will happen. The 'new norm' for business interaction will find its own way, and I believe quickly, as we all adapt to our new ways of working.

However, employers will need to think carefully about their approach to 'business as usual' from an employee benefits perspective, especially if working from home is now the anticipated future. The loss of the coffee machine hub might be the start of the loss of a lot more!

No individual advice is provided during the course of this Blog. Please speak to the team at Chapters Financial for your business needs.

Keith Churchouse FPFS


CFP Chartered FCSI

Chartered Financial Planner

Chapters Financial Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, number 402899

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