This Memorial Day, we thought we would take a step back from our regular analysis of the U.S. foodservice industry and consider the broader perspective of many Americans returning to offices. After the last brat is burned on Monday evening and family you haven’t seen in the past year has finally left, you will be faced with the realization that, tomorrow, you will finally return to your former workspace.


Before the lockdowns, American workers were accustomed to five hours of nightly sleep, workouts at 5am, two-hour commutes, children pick-up and drop-offs, after-work classes and meetings and all other sorts of activities that make the work week, well, the work week.


When this daily routine ceased, many of us felt lost and without purpose. The time spent traveling to work, chatting with our colleagues around the coffee maker and finally settling down at our desk at 9:30 (let’s be real here) had been transformed. We found that in one, single hour, we could complete work that used to take six hours. The former 15-minute walk to the coffee “shop” was now a 15 second commute over a sleeping animal to the locked and loaded Keurig.


We also noticed more things in those days. Our kitchen cabinets looked old. The wooden floors had lost their sheen. And when did the refrigerator start making that funny noise? We became experts on fixing our internet; the term “bandwidth” started to make sense to us. Dressing up for a meeting meant brushing your teeth and combing your hair, but keeping your pajama bottoms on. Some of us were even comfortable eating cereal on Zoom. I don’t mean me, but some people.


After Memorial Day, this will all begin to be a distant memory. Dry cleaning and professional haircuts will once again become important. Finding a good book or newspaper – or podcast – on the commute to the office will once again take precedent.


So what really happened over the past year? We have our own theory as we compare working from home versus working in the office.


Working-From-Home During Covid-19 Versus Returning to the Office


Task Working At Home Working at the Office
Preparing For Work Wake Up. Open a laptop. Start. Wake up. Pick out clothes. Brush teeth. Take a shower. Eat cereal. 
Morning Coffee Commute to the coffeemaker Escalate downstairs to Starbucks or stop at a cafe on the way to work
Morning Commute Roll out of bed. Trudge seven feet to the nearest desk and check your email. Or, open your laptop in bed.  Walk to the car or train, listen to the radio, expect delays, text the office to say you may be running behind.
Production Sit down quietly, play some music and finish the main section of the Penske project. Sit down. Answer a knock on your office door. Say that you didn’t know Brady was being traded to the Bears and that Todd, in shipping, didn’t tip the barista. Open the two emails from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Morning Break Take a long walk at 10:30 with your pooch and “hammer out details” on your conference call with your airpods snuggly fit. Sit at your desk. Everyone else is. It’s 10:30 for crying out loud.
Lunch Walk to the refrigerator. Sniff a few things. Reheat some of that amazing pasta dinner you made last night. Or maybe you’re in the mood for a freshly made salad. For lunch, either eat what you packed earlier (that took 15 minutes this morning) or gather your colleagues to spend $15 at a bakery cafe for a soup and salad.
Afternoon Production Take a one-hour Zoom call on who will cover the details of the Penske project, write a draft of an article and spend one hour preparing for tomorrow’s work. Stay ahead on emails. Filter into a conference room that doesn’t have enough chairs. Todd is sitting in a chair meant for Rachel. The PowerPoint is not working because the overhead projector is not set correctly. Call IT. IT is busy. Talk about the Bears and that new series on Netflix.
Evening Commute Wake up from your nap. Walk over to your desk and answer any other emails. Start prepping for dinner and thinking of some ideas on the Penske Project. Todd plants himself in your office for an hour explaining why the no-grapefruit diet is “sweet” and how it has changed his life. You missed your train.


From all of us at Foodservice IP, have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day with friends and family.

Tim Powell is a Managing Principal of Foodservice IP. Tim serves as a trusted foodservice adviser to management at several food companies.

Like the content? Sign up to receive our communications.