A-Z of the future workplace:

Nutrition

Office workers spend 35% of their total waking hours over a 50-year working-life period at work. For many, two of their three meals a day are eaten at work. For these reasons, it is crucial that employers consider and offer guidance to their employees on the dietary choices that they make.

Get Britain Standing and the British Heart Foundation charity ran a survey of 2,000 office workers which showed that more than half of employees regularly eat their lunch at their desk, and nearly two-thirds were worried sitting at work was having a negative impact on their health.

With these health concerns at the forefront of employees’ minds, it is crucial to consider ways to improve nutrition, in turn improving general mental wellbeing and productivity in the office.

How does food affect our productivity?

Our bodies respond to the food that we supply it with. Therefore, the healthier the food, the better your output will be. The British Journal of Health Psychology released a paper highlighting the impact that food has on us throughout the day. They examined participants’ food consumption, mood, and behaviour, and found that the more fruit and veg consumed throughout the day, the more creative, engaged and happier they were found to be during the working day.

Whilst those results aren’t a surprise, it does highlight that although we may know these facts, many of us still make the simpler choice when deciding what to consume, especially as when we are choosing what to eat, we are generally at our lowest energy point, making unhealthier choices more desirable.

Whilst we may be feeling low when we make these decisions, we will be further impacting our productivity throughout the rest of the day, as these choices lead to fatigue, irritability, lower energy levels, higher levels of stress and decreased productivity.

Different types of food are processed by our body and converted into energy at different rates. Pasta, bread, cereal etc all release their glucose quickly, which gives a short increase in energy, which is then followed by feeling lethargic. More fattening meals including meat provide more sustained energy, although they require our digestive system to work harder, which reduces the overall oxygen levels in the brain, again making us feel tired.

How can we improve productivity?

We are what we eat, but we also work how we eat. Making the right choices has the biggest impact on our productivity throughout the day. When we eat food, it is turned into glucose, providing our bodies with energy. When we’re running low on glucose we struggle to concentrate – hence why attentiveness begins to slack around lunchtime.

The following nutrients are found to help increase brain health and productivity.

  • folate, found in meat, beans, and greens
  • omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseed, walnuts, and some types of eggs
  • vitamin C, found in berries, bell peppers, and citrus fruits
  • vitamin E, found in nuts and vegetable oils

Working these into your daily lunch routine can be imperative for ensuring you are the most productive throughout the day.

What can employers do to help?

There are lots of things which can be done to improve nutrition and well-being at your company.

  1. You could offer free breakfasts to attract staff to visit on-site outside of peak travel times, and in turn make the workforce more productive. Educating your employees on the best food choices for them to make throughout the day will help your team be productive from the very start of the day.
  2. Employers may opt to install vending machines for hot/cold drinks in addition to self-made facilities, making it easier for employees to take that break away from their screen to get a drink.
  3. Everyone should have access to a quality water supply. Most workers tend not to drink enough water, according to research, and interestingly the amount that staff drink is directly related to where the water cooler is located. You should ensure your staff have access to a water cooler which is integrated into the workplace design.
  4. Encourage staff to make healthy choices throughout the day; offer free snacks such as fruit or nuts rather than an enticing biscuit jar. With office ‘cake culture’ on the rise, try and limit the amount of extra sugar that your staff intake, in turn making these cake opportunities more of a treat.
  5. Make sure to have a space for employees to sit, chill out and eat their food in peace, away from their screens and the general buzz of the office. Allowing staff to switch off during their lunch break will reduce the likelihood of burnout, whilst giving them a chance to socialise with their co-workers, improving their mental wellbeing in the meantime.

The key benefit of improving nutrition and wellbeing in the office is that when your staff are in the right mood, as achieved through their diet, they will not only want to come to work, but enjoy it as well.  For further guidance on what can be done to help improve nutrition in your workplace, get in touch today.