The modern office is full of nutritional minefields: Donuts on Monday morning, unlimited candy jars, cake on Sarah’s birthday ... (and it seems like it’s always someone’s birthday).
Employees with poor nutritional balance report 21% more sick-related absences and 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues. Better nutrition means more time on the job and more alert and focused employees. It’s good business to make sure your employees are fueled well for work, but it’s not always easy to convince them to make healthy food choices.
Here are six tips to get your employees’ nutrition moving in the right direction:
- Awareness and education
First and foremost, make employees aware of your nutrition initiative. This can be as simple as a company-wide email outlining some smart new choices that are available in the break room, or creating a program with logos denoting healthy picks in the company cafe. A lack of employee education can even lead to employees rejecting the healthy food offerings. The more information you make readily available, the easier it will be for workers to make informed and intelligent choices.
- Smart snack swaps
Steer employees towards better snack choices by providing free or subsidized healthy options. Many of our clients get weekly fruit deliveries, and are pleased to see that all of the apples, bananas, pears, and peaches are gone by Friday. Research has shown improved mental performance after small, high-protein meals containing low-fat dairy, fish, lean meat and beans. So try adding protein-rich snacks like greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, mixed nuts, and almond butter to the shared cupboards. With an accessible supply of satiating snacks available, employees will naturally choose convenience and cost-savings over the vending machine.
- Put the “time” in “lunchtime”
Many companies, especially rapidly growing startups, fall into some negative time management habits. We’ve all had those days where we eat at our desks or grab something not-great for us because we have a meeting that starts smack dab in the middle of the lunch hour. Well, it’s up to you to change that no-time-for-lunch culture! Make the noon hour a sacred space, thereby enabling and encouraging everyone to step away from their desk for a nourishing meal. They’ll return revitalized, clear-headed, and ultimately more productive than if they didn’t step away or only had time for “fast food”. (This tip is a Grokker headquarters’ favorite!)
- Tools of the trade
Enable employees to bring in their own homemade meals, snacks, and fresh foods by providing them with what they’ll need to store and prep. A fridge, microwave, and utensils are basic must-haves. It’s also a great idea to work with a few key leaders who can act as healthy eating role models in the company kitchen. Trust me — once employees see a coworker strolling by with an Instagram-worthy plate of sprouted-grain toast topped mashed avocado, arugula, and sea salt, the smart-eating seed will be firmly planted.
- Hydrate wisely
A 1% decrease in hydration levels can lead to a 20% decrease in productivity. Promoting water consumption also has the side benefit of reducing soda consumption. Consider adding a Sodastream machine to the kitchen mix, putting perennially popular La Croix water in the vending machine, or providing free, hydrating options like coconut water. As I mentioned before, if you make it convenient and affordable (or free), your employees are much more likely to opt for the healthier choice.
- Gamify and incentivize
Potlucks are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Build upon the healthy eating habits you’re encouraging by hosting at-work potlucks with specific themes, such as a “Meatless Monday,” “Zoodle-Stravaganza”, or the Grokker favorite “Chili Cook-off”. This will encourage employees to experiment with vegetables in new ways, cook with fresh ingredients, and try dishes they may not have otherwise. All participants vote on the best dish, and the winning chef nabs a gift card. Added bonus: not only does this encourage healthy eating, it’s also great for employee engagement and relationship-building. Now, that’s what we call #winning.
Nutrition is an essential component in any workplace wellness initiative. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employees who eat healthy all day long were 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance. When blood sugar is stable and energy levels are high, there’s no telling what your team can accomplish.
O’Reilly, Sally. “Eating the Profits.” Personnel Today. 4 July 2006
Wanjek, Christopher. Food At Work Workplace Solutions For Malnutrition, Obesity And Chronic Diseases. New York: International Labour Office, 2005.
Kiefer, Ingrid. “Brain Food.” Scientific American Mind 18.5 (Oct. 2007)
Beagrie, Scott. “How to improve productivity through employee health management.” Personnel Today. 7 June 2005