This mindset desperately needs to change, as statistics show health-related lost productivity costs the UK an estimated £77.5 billion a year. With the stakes so high, Rachel Whitford, Area Manager, City of London explores the essential role good nutrition plays in boosting employee productivity and engagement.
The right stuff
When it comes to getting our 5-a-day, the UK is lagging behind other countries. In fact, only just over a quarter of Britons manage to achieve the recommended daily amount. With so many people failing to get the right dose of vitamins and minerals, it’s vital workplaces step up and make nutritious food readily available within the workplace. For example, foods rich in magnesium have a number of health benefits, including maximising energy and promoting bone health. Key sources of magnesium include nuts and dairy foods. Selenium is another essential mineral and antioxidant that’s needed to maintain a healthy immune system and prevent damage to our nerves and cells. Brazil nuts are known for their high selenium content and have been credited with possessing neuroprotective benefits for our brain. Vitamin C, renowned for its immune-boosting qualities, also has hidden cognitive benefits employers should be aware of. As it happens our brains are a power consumer of this essential vitamin which helps to ensure blood vessel integrity; an important component of cognitive capacity and a great asset in maintaining a switched on workforce.
Keeping it in-house
Alarmingly, over half of employees never leave the office at lunchtime. With so many employees reluctant to explore food options away from their desk, it’s imperative employers (who can) provide a healthy and varied selection of food and refreshment options. One of the most effective ways for employers to achieve this is to select catering partners that understand the importance of good nutrition at work. At Express, we recognise that one size does not fit all. That’s why we work closely with every single client to create an individually tailored snacking solution. Whatever your business’ size and budget, it is possible to offer highly nutritious ‘food perks’ to your staff. A selection of healthy and affordable nibbles can act as a mid-morning snack or afternoon pick-me-up; the cost of which is offset by an energised workforce. As a business, it’s also important to remember snacking can be a great way of fostering community. Creating designated dining spaces away from desks is an effective way to encourage staff breaks, aid productivity and help establish better interpersonal dynamics.
Getting everyone onboard
Acknowledging change needs to happen is a crucial first step, but unifying team members is often more difficult. However, there are services available to help educate and inform members of staff about the benefits of integrating healthy food choices into their diet. For example, there are weight management services which can provide valuable information on the value of exercise and ways to modify certain eating behaviours. Lunchtime fitness classes are also useful in uniting team members around the common goal of getting healthy in a way that’s fun and non-judgemental. Many businesses enlist ‘change champions’; carefully selected, well-respected team members who help to spread awareness about initiatives and schemes within the organisation. It might also be worthwhile exploring additional nutrition-focused perks. This can take the form of workshops from experts in nutrition or qualified chefs. To ensure maximum buy-in, businesses must think about how they can convey the importance of a healthy lifestyle in an informative and enjoyable way to drive behaviour change.
Analysing the results
In-house group meetings, monthly surveys and online forums can offer important insights into what your employees want and how best you can motivate them to make a lasting change. To monitor the success of your company’s endeavours, use your aims as a benchmark; taking care to assess whether the measures in place fulfil your goals. This will give you a clearer picture of whether you need to make any adjustments. You can also encourage managers to conduct regular one-to-one meetings to find out how staff are taking to the new scheme. Arguably the most insightful way to assess uptake is to monitor productivity levels, sickness absences and overall staff morale. This will give you the most constructive insight into how well your strategy is working and whether you need to offer additional support to team members who might be struggling to make the change.