You know that great feeling you get after eating a family-sized bag of potato chips? No? How about after eating a kale salad with lemon-tahini dressing and toasted nuts? Ah… that’s the feeling you’re after. That sated-but-still-sentient, slightly smug feeling that says you’ve just ingested a finely balanced blend of nutrients and you’re ready for an afternoon full of worthwhile pursuits.
The Struggle to Eat Well at Work is Real
It’s tough getting that feeling at work, though. So many of today’s employees have long commutes, and even longer hours. Taking time to go out for a healthy lunch is hard, and finding time to make your lunch is harder. Unless you’re one of those overachievers who packs their own pinterest-worthy lunch every morning, right after 20 minutes of hot yoga, let’s face it – most of us are lucky just to get to work on time, in clean clothes, with our coffee breath somewhat masked by mints and more coffee.
Who can blame us for choosing lunch options that are less than healthy? We just want to be productive! So we grab something from the lobby vending machines, or purchase some carbonanza surprise from the food truck outside, and stuff it in our faces as we get back to work.
But all those carbs and processed sugars are doing a number on us. After the initial happy chemicals are sent to our brains, we settle down and all the blood leaves our brain as it rushes to our stomachs, where it stays for the next several hours, trying in vain to process the pile of whatever we just ate.
Better Workplace Nutrition Can Increase Workplace Productivity
Not every company is in the practice of measuring and tracking employee productivity. It can be difficult to do. Fortunately, there are people out there who do this sort of thing, and they have found some interesting results. One study, by the Institute of Food and Resource Economics, found that workplace nutrition initiatives can improve employee productivity metrics by as much as 1-2%.
The Harvard Business Review also looked at the strong correlation between diet and office productivity, and calls out the Catch-22 nature of busy employees who may grab a less-than-healthy lunch in the interest of saving time: “Our lunchtime decisions lead us astray. We save 10 minutes now and pay for it with weaker performance the rest of the day.” But what to do? As the Review summarizes, information alone is not enough to change behavior. People aren’t dense, they’re just overtaxed, and often more focused on the deadline right in front of them than the larger picture of their productivity.
Smart Companies Make Eating Well Easy
Obviously, it’s in a business’s best interest to help their employees prioritize their own health, and there are a multitude of ways to do so.
More and more businesses are creating wellness plans that enable or even incentivize employees to make healthy choices, an important way of showing team appreciation. Often the emphasis is on physical activity: onsite fitness classes, free fitness tech, stand-up desks, some companies are even hosting impromptu planking contests.
Savvy employers are making healthy foods accessible as well. Some incentivize farm shares or healthy meal plan programs; others offer onsite cafeterias staffed by macrobiotic chefs. Another option is a healthy twist on the micro market – self-serve vending machines stocked with whole grain sandwiches and other sustaining foods.
For companies with articulated wellness goals, promoting a good diet will help achieve them. Healthier employees can also mean lower health care costs, less time lost to sick days, and even prevent attrition due to burn-out.
If you’re an employer hoping to improve workplace productivity and wellness, we can help.