‘No cuppa for me, thanks.’
Get used to hearing those words next time you offer to get a tea or coffee round at work.
With lockdown restrictions easing around the country, some people have started going back to the office.
Socially distanced seating arrangements, staggered shift patterns and smaller teams are just part of the new normal.
But those are not the only changes we can expect to see. Office etiquette and culture may be changing too.
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A study conducted by print firm Solopress found that over a third (33%) of British workers don’t trust their colleagues to follow proper hygiene guidelines.
Pre-pandemic office regularities are now considered uncomfortable, with 44% of employees nervous about sharing equipment, communal spaces (35%) and bathrooms (30%) with fellow staff.
Where once a tea round was a necessary part of their nine to five, more than a quarter (27%) now feel uneasy about making hot drinks for their team members.
But perhaps it’s a good thing, considering how the role of the tea maker was often left with junior staff or women.
Anna Alexander, 37, tells us that one of her former managers always turned to the women in the office when he needed a drink.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘In one job, my male boss would get all the young women to make his tea.
‘I wasn’t confident enough to speak up but when he told me “put the kettle on love” I did exactly that and walked off. When he asked where the tea was I told him I’d done what he asked and acted confused. He didn’t ask me again.’
Some women are now looking forward to being back in the office and not being asked to pop the kettle on for fear of germs and contamination.
Writer Charlotte is glad she won’t have to make a round or take a drink from someone offering when she’s back in the office.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘All it takes is for me to remember the state of our office kitchen to know that literally no one can be trusted when it comes to office hygiene.
‘Before this, normally, I would accept a drink from a round, but only because I claim a clean mug from the dishwasher first thing in the morning and then that’s my mug for the day.
‘After the pandemic, I think I’ll be the same as I’ve always been when I go back to work regarding the tea run. There’s only three or four of us on our section that tends to drink tea anyway so it’s normally not so bad.
‘I’ve always been a bit of an office mug clean freak – I think it’s a habit I picked up from my days as a scabby uni kid where we’d get into washing up wars and blame everyone else for the mess.
‘As long as the office sponge stays well away from my mug, then I’m fine. it always looks like it’s been obliterated or just randomly disappears for a couple of days – I don’t trust it.’
And it’s not just how hygienic their colleagues are that worried about – it’s their whole response to the pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has divided people into two camps – those who take it seriously and those who are a little more nonchalant or even apathetic.
31% of people do not trust their colleagues to take proper health and safety precautions in their own lives, according to a study by BCW, a global communications agency, alongside global insight consultancy, PSB.
These precautions can include wearing face masks, regularly washing, following social distancing guidelines.
And these are causing people to have reservations about being back in the office altogether – with 60% of staff feeling uncomfortable being back.
But others are looking forward to being back in the office – which is somewhat of a social playground, especially when you use the tea round as an opportunity to have a catch up with your work pals or throw ideas around.
Rebecca Moss, Digital PR Director at JBH the Digital PR Agency, can attest to this.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I was chatting with my colleagues and they were talking about the tea round and how they have missed it while working from home – even if they would have to make eight brews at a time!
‘When it comes to hygiene, I do think we’ll lose the traditional brew round where one person makes multiple brews at once.
‘But, I do think this could be a positive thing. With more people getting up to make a solo cuppa, you’re more likely to get different people in the kitchen which could in turn drum up more social interaction between teams and colleagues who would never normally meet (at a safe distance of course!).
‘There’s something really mindful about getting away from the desk and doing something mundane that lets your ideas flow!’
Rebecca feels that tea breaks are essential, whether you’re making a cuppa for yourself or for your whole team.
But, she makes the distinction, that it’s different if it’s just your boss asking you to put the kettle on as there are unequal power dynamics at play.
She adds: ‘I think making tea for your colleague is very different to making tea for your boss. Making tea for and with your colleagues is a bonding experience – some of the best ideas my team and I have had have been discussed and dreamed up whilst waiting for the tea to brew.
‘Making tea for your boss feels like a power-play and I believe (certainly in the first year of my career) it was used to exert dominance – especially because my boss was male and I was a very junior (female) member of staff.’
Rebecca reckons that while the tea round may end, a different opportunity may arise from making single cups of tea or coffee.
She says: ‘I think nowadays, I would use tea-making in reverse – in order to get time in front of my boss and explain any ideas I had, I’m turning the tables!’
Tea-making can be a power play – especially when junior or female staff are expected to do it, they can also be wonderful opportunities to have a chinwag with your colleagues.
But in the aftermath of a global pandemic, the tea round is just one other thing that may be different to what it was.
You can either use it to your advantage – tell your boss you can’t make it in case you contaminate their mugs.
Or if you really miss a natter in the kitchen, perhaps you could take the gossip sesh to the toilet and wash your hands side-by-side instead.
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