UK firms are using free beer and popcorn to tempt staff back to offices

makeup on train

Free breakfast, candy floss on demand or a gift of corporate-branded merchandise – these are just some of the perks and incentives being offered by office-based employers to entice their workers back to their desks after a year and a half at home.

The City of London Corporation, the governing body for the capital’s Square Mile, welcomed workers back by jointly staging a free-to-enter “beerfest” last Thursday, where colleagues could get together over a pint and street food.

Investment firm Fidelity International is one of those offering treats to its almost 2,900 workers. Those entering the workplace will be able to enjoy a free breakfast for a week from Monday, as well as free fruit. Candy floss and popcorn carts will also be available on certain days.

Free breakfast is also on offer until the end of October for 1,300 people employed by the City law firm Slaughter and May, as well as a reusable stainless steel water bottles in the company’s corporate colours. The firm is also embracing a flexible working model under which employees will spend 60% of their time in the office and 40% at home.

One of the most lucrative incentives is at professional services firm PwC, whose 22,000-strong UK workforce will receive an extra £1,000 in September as the company switches to a hybrid working model, including two or three days a week in the office. While receiving the payout isn’t dependent on staff stopping working from home, it was suggested in an internal memo that they could use the extra money to help cover commuting expenses.

Croydon-based company, which makes travel goods, said it had been contacted by several tech firms keen to purchase the company’s laptop sleeve filled with coconut fibre. They are looking to have the product branded with their corporate logos, to give to staff returning to the workplace.

“It is having the latest ‘swag’ as they call it,” said founder Alex Stewart. “We are hearing from office managers who have been assigned a budget for the purpose of doing a ‘welcome back’ or easing people into hybrid working.”

Gifts or team get-togethers are a way to “make employees feel appreciated and valued” after a period of working in isolation, according to workplace psychologist Lee Chambers, who runs the Preston-based training firm Essentialise.

“Naturally, some people are really excited to go back to the office and some are a little bit more hesitant, but there is no doubt that if they know some fun is coming up that they can participate in or something is waiting on their desk, it gives employees a feeling of stability on returning, and feeling they are part of something bigger.”