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COVID-19 The Workplace, Foodservices & The Maslow Effect: Beyond 2020

Last week’s CACI report “Adapting to the New Consumer Reality” corroborates TAF’s findings that today’s employee, emerging from lockdown, is very different to the one that went in, in March.

TAF has engaged with caterers, consultant peers, foodservice suppliers and workplace client organisations in recent weeks and has been repeatedly asked to predict workplace foodservices.

To think ahead, we had to first take a look at the consumer… the customer … the employee NOW and understand how they have emerged from lockdown (and WHY).

This is why I cast my mind back to when I was at Cardiff University and introduced to the studies of Abraham Maslow. I reconsidered what Maslow had studied, and thought about “The Maslow Effect’ having applied the thoughts of Abraham Maslow to foodservices in the workplace, and the specific ‘needs’ challenges employers face.

Maslow, wrote a paper in 1943, A Theory of Human Motivation, having developed the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ proposing healthy humans have certain needs which are arranged in a hierarchy or a five-tier pyramid (see diagram).

  • Level 1 | Physiological needs
  • Level 2 | Safety needs
  • Level 3 | Belongingness needs
  • Level 4 | Esteem needs
  • Level 5 | Self-Actualization needs

Below: Workplace Foodservice Covid-19 – The Maslow Effect, According to Tracey Fairclough, MD

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Maslow says we are all motivated by our own personal hierarchy of needs. We must satisfy certain needs, each in turn, before we move up the hierarchy to address needs further up.
  • PRIMARY LEVEL | We deal with our PHYSIOLOGICAL Needs. Cast your mind back to March 2020. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, addressed the nation on coronavirus, speaking of “the devastating impact of this invisible killer”. He gave us all one very simple instruction “you must stay at home”. This is the point where we all (irrespective of age, background, ethnicity, experience or geography) – like snakes in a game of “snakes and ladders” – went right back to the basic need to survive. Remember going to the supermarket? We were all panic-buying to provide basic household items to survive – food, water, loo rolls and other essentials.
  • SECONDARY LEVEL | We deal with our SAFETY Needs. The UK government said we could go “shopping for basic necessities”, “taking one form of exercise a day” and receive “medical help”. This is the point where our SAFETY needs at home (esp. health and wellbeing) became the focus. Key measures to assist businesses and employees through COVID-19, included the Job Retention “Furlough” Scheme, were created to support our personal security, employment and property needs. In fact, Boris Johnson urged companies in England to return to workplaces at the start of August. This is the point where addressing SAFETY needs transferred from individuals to the responsibility of workplaces; employers becoming responsible for communicating with employees to reassure them of the SAFETY measures being, as good as, if not better, than in our own homes. However, according to US bank Morgan Stanley’s research unit AlphaWise, this time last week, on the 5th August, only one-third (34%) of UK white-collar employees had reportedly gone back to work.
  • This suggests further reassurances are needed from workplace employers to: (1) address or communicate SAFETY PROVISIONS at work but also (2) promote BELONGINGNESS PROVISIONS. Given that so much focus has been on safety (masks, PPE, etc.), we’re focusing on belonginess.


  • Post Pandemic | In dealing with tragedy, conflict or life after a pandemic, individuals draw upon own personal, spiritual, cultural experiences to cope with, make sense of a trauma. Bounce back, after, lies less in an individual and more in the power of an individual’s influencing communities. If left to your own devices, inadequate coping mechanisms may lead to mental health problems.
  • Community | A community is a group, team or collective with high levels of trust, communication, equality, respect and collaboration. It’s not without conflict, but members have potential to nurture resilience, acceptance and amazing support, which means vision, focus and positive outcomes created collaboratively.
  • Hope | Through community, communication leads to belonging and individuals develop a more positive, hopeful outlook. Hope is vital for recovery. Hope fuels energy and investment to rebuild lives, restore dreams, revive performance and create positive legacies (allowing individuals to feel safe, trust in their future and facilitate the feeling of security returning back to their lives).

5 Reasons BELONGINGNESS is important TODAY

  1. Over 66 million of us have dealt with tragedy, conflict, the pandemic and self-isolation; forced to draw on personal, spiritual, cultural experiences to cope with and make sense of COVID-19. 
  2. We’ve addressed our need for SAFETY in our own homes but, with the prospect of a “return to work”, it’s now the workplace who has to address our needs for SAFETY, as well as provide community and the sense of BELONGING that goes with it.
  3. Self-isolation has bred hopelessness and powerlessness; apathy is taking its toll on morale, productivity and engagement. The importance of creating communities in the workplace means employers create belonging, motivate members to elevate their performance and drive them to devote time (in and out of the workplace) to what they care about most.
  4. Top-down decision-making will challenge creating sustainable change, so involvement at all levels of an organisation is critical for innovation, sustaining and restoring the UK economy.
  5. In a community, you’re committed and responsible for the outcomes; you’ll participate in organizational and community decision-making and planning, regain power, energy and facilitate positive change.

3 Steps To Build BELONGINGNESS in the Workplace

  1. Empowering employees. Give your employees a role in tackling the company challenges. This increases commitment and people are more committed to something they belong to.
  2. Encourage diverse perspectives. None of us is as smart as all of us. Invite employees and foodservice providers to share how they see the world and best practice demonstrate in it.
  3. Follow the community energy. See what emerges in conversation and talk to employees about the things that matter the most to the people who matter the most to you.

We conclude that “The Maslow Effect” will help employers apply the hierarch of needs to best adapt, evolve and engage today’s employee, emerging from lockdown, which, as we said at the start, is very different to the one that went in.

Employees will be happy to return to the workplace, if both SAFETY and BELONGINGNESS needs are met. If so, a new normal could happen quickly. So, UK facilities managers, personnel managers, leaders and CEOs, ought to think more about adapting your staff restaurants and foodservice areas to do more than just focus on feeding a nation returning to work but on a need to BELONG – for some this may be about big comfortable “Central Perk” Style Sofas to give sitters a big hug, “Sleeping Chambers” to recharge nappers or oversized “Games Areas” to bring individuals back together.

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If you’re a corporate client organisation with a workplace staff restaurant considering your future workplace catering, then email me directly on .

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