There are many benefits to introducing employee wellness programmes at work, including boosting workplace happiness and productivity levels. An often overlooked programme initiative is promoting a healthy workplace diet but it delivers equally worthwhile results.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that workplace eating habits have a definite effect on employee health. But a recent survey in the US reveals just how unhealthy employees can become at work.
In the report, which surveyed professionals working in “sedentary careers”, a significant percentage (45%) admitted they had gained weight at work. When asked why they believed this had happened, half stated it was in part due to sitting at a desk all day, but 38% said it was due to eating because of stress, 24% due to going out for lunch at least 3 times per week rather than preparing a lunch themselves, and 19% because they skipped meals due to time constraints. The report also revealed that 73% of US workers snack on the job, with 79% of 35-44 year olds having a so-called snack drawer.
Healthy Workplace Diet Equals Better Performance
The problems that arise from unhealthy eating are well-known. At best, it contributes to drops in energy levels and poor concentration. At worst, it leads to conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
But there is also firm scientific evidence to support the idea that promoting a healthy workplace diet can positively impact on employee wellness – and on workplace productivity especially. In fact, one report concluded that employees who eat healthily are 25% more likely to achieve a higher job performance, while the International Labour Office found that healthy workplace nutrition has definite benefits. These include:
- Improved sleep at night
- Higher energy levels
- Higher levels of engagement
- Stronger workplace morale
- Lower absenteeism
Promoting a Healthy Workplace Diet
With a healthy diet clearly a critical part in employee wellness, promoting a healthy workplace diet would be well worth the investment. But when employees are already under pressure to deliver results and have little time to change their eating habits completely, what can be done? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Install Healthy Foods Vending Machines
You probably already have vending machines at work dispensing soft drinks, chocolate and other snacks. Well, with 12% of US workers admitting they get their food at the office vending machine at least once a week, changing the contents of the machine would be a wise move. A healthier range will encourage those without the time to get a proper meal to eat better, even it if is at their desks. There are food vending companies dedicated to providing healthy choices, with seeds and nuts, granola, fruit packs and nutritional bars amongst the available snacks, and vegetable and rice dishes (requiring just hot water) amongst the entrees.
- Make Fruit Accessible
It’s a pretty simple option. Just leave a bowl of fruit in those areas your staff likes to congregate at and let them help themselves. Of course, you’ll have to keep track of the uptake, removing any unused fruit before it starts to turn. Another option is to include a blender in the staff kitchenette, so employees can make their own fruit smoothies with the free fruit.
- Offer Plant-Based Lunch Options
Plant-based eating has been hailed as a revolutionary eating trend, though there is no secret to the benefits of taking the vegetarian option. Animal-based foods (like meat and dairy) can weigh you down. At work, this translates to drowsiness, poor concentration and increased errors.
Some of the general benefits of cutting meat and dairy out of your diet are:
- It lowers stress and blood pressure thanks to the high potassium and Vitamin B6 contained in many vegetables, fruits and nuts.
- It can dramatically lower cholesterol since plants contain none. In fact, according to one study a plant-based diet is more effective at lowering cholesterol levels than simply low-fat diets.
- It contributes to weight loss, particularly when it’s part of a low-fat diet. Processed foods contain toxins that are stored in fat cells, thus adding to your weight. Whole uncooked foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, have very little fat, while lentils are the perfect choice.
The best way to promote a healthier workplace diet is to show your staff how it’s done. Lead by example. Be seen taking the fruit, or making a smoothie, and grab a granola bar when you want a snack from the vending machine. Of course, you should adopt this policy for the employee wellness program generally, but showing you are eating more healthily is an excellent start.
This can be applied to any of the lifestyle improvement choices your employees might make, including their diet. Cash is generally welcomed, but alternatively, offer a year’s gym membership to those with a track record in gym attendance, or weekend break or a night out at a restaurant.