Office managers are the workplace’s greatest unsung heroes.
Photocopier not working? The office manager can fix it. Can’t find the vacuum cleaner? The office manager probably knows where it is. Need a Band Aid? Ask the office manager.
But office managers do far more than answer questions. They’re in charge of a sacred and surprisingly difficult task: supplying the team with snacks. What should be a simple grocery run inevitably turns into a multi-store strategy match. Some office managers shop for hundreds of people, balancing taste, nutrition, variety, portability, perishability, price and more.
The job isn’t over, though, when office managers get back from the store. They still have to keep an eye on supply levels, manage the snack budget, and get rid of stale or moldy snacks. Add it all up, and it’s enough to tire out even the toughest of office managers.
Solving the Snack Puzzle
Looking to up your office snack game without adding stress? Keep these five tips in mind:
1. Think beyond sweet and savory.
No two snackers have quite the same tastes. Keeping everyone’s preferences in mind may be possible at a small office, but it becomes progressively more difficult as mouths increase.
How can office managers make sure everyone can find something they like? Look for variety across as many dimensions as possible. Salty versus sweet is just one; what about crunchy or chewy, and spicy or mild? Tangy or smooth? Fruity or nutty?
2. Skip artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.
Although artificial flavors tend to be nutritionally similar to their natural counterparts, some have been found by the Food and Drug Administration to cause cancer. While artificial sweeteners may not cause cancer, they are associated with weight gain. And there’s ample evidence linking artificial colors to cancer, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems.
Even if it turns out that some artificial ingredients are harmless, office managers don’t have time to research every ingredient listed on every snack. What’s more, U.S. food labeling laws don’t require many ingredients to be disclosed beyond their status as “natural” or “artificial. Not all all-natural snacks are healthy, but they’re generally better bets than ones with artificial ingredients.
3. Don’t forget dietary restrictions.
These days, it seems like everyone is following a different diet. Vegetarians won’t eat meat, paleo people put protein on a pedestal, ketogenic dieters avoid carbohydrates like the plague, and gluten-free eaters can have some carbs but not others.
Although shopping with variety in mind can go a long way toward accommodating different diets, deliberately select at least two or three snacks that align with each diet practiced on your team. Be particularly conscious of allergy-related diets: Around 4 percent of American adults have a food allergy, which can be life-threatening. Some food-allergy sufferers are so sensitive that even skin exposure can cause a serious reaction; for their sake, avoid snacks containing allergens entirely.
4. When in doubt, ask for a sample.
Packaging never quite tells the whole story about a snack. Are sriracha cashews, for example, slightly spicy or eye-wateringly hot? At our office, they’re one of the first snacks to go — but to be fair, we have plenty of sriracha-sauce lovers on our team.
Before buying an office-sized serving of something new, ask to try it. If possible, bring back a few samples for particularly picky staff members. Then ask them to rate it in comparison to current snacks. If everyone prefers a new type of potato chip, for instance, then there’s no reason to keep buying the old brand.
5. Plan for rejection.
No matter how much surveying, shopping for variety, and sampling you do, the truth is that some snacks simply won’t get eaten. Rather than trying to convince a store to take back a food item (which they almost certainly won’t) or forcing team members to eat something they don’t like, plan ahead. Seek out snack suppliers that are willing to either refund or replace unwanted items.
NatureBox, for example, credits customers for snacks they don’t like and replaces it for you and your team with our unlimited snack program. Although we’d like all of our snacks to be hits with every team, we know that’s not how it works. Plus, giving credit for unwanted items encourages clients to give us feedback, which our nutritionists and product developers lean on when developing new snacks.
Snacks may seem like a small consideration in the wide-ranging duties of an office manager. But given that nine in ten workers say office snacks are important to them, keeping the pantry stocked can be critical for team members happy and productive. Choose varied, delicious, and healthy options, but don’t be afraid to try something new. Heroes are adventurous, but they always have a backup plan.