The importance of proper nutrition in the workplace cannot be overstated. Studies show that workplace productivity and illness-related absenteeism are heavily affected by the lack of a healthy diet. More specifically, excessive weight gain caused by poor food choices has been linked to employees taking more sick days. As such, encouraging healthier relationships with eating in the workplace is vital. Considering that the majority of adults in the UK spend a third of their day in the workplace, employers have a responsibility to secure their employees’ overall well-being.
Read on to find out how you can support your staff in forming a better relationship with eating and nutrition, as well as the ways healthy eating habits can benefit your workplace.
Focusing on employee nutrition in the workplace
Eating disorders affect individuals in the workplace in a myriad of ways. Symptoms range from physical to psychological, and those suffering from it may not be easily identifiable. Working whilst battling an eating disorder poses a variety of difficulties for individuals in the workplace. It can affect their ability to manage their workload and their relationships with colleagues, and they may avoid telling their supervisors for fear of judgement or repercussions.
However, it’s also noteworthy to mention that not all employees with unhealthy eating habits have eating disorders. Preventable work stressors have been linked to employees’ health choices, with nearly a third of UK workers attributing unhealthy lunches to unmanageable workloads. Rigid hours in the workplace were cited as the second most common reason for toxic lunch habits at work for 28% of respondents.
To help make your workplace a safe space for employees with eating disorders and to help all employees build healthier eating habits, early intervention combined with co-created well-being plans are key. These programmes are crucial for showing support, compassion, and empathy, as well as building a better working environment for employees.
Tips for employers
A fact sheet published by the British Dietetic Association highlights that in the UK, malnutrition is a major public health issue that affects at least 3 million people. As an employer, it’s important to not only focus on employees who may currently experience disordered eating but also to assess your workforce’s nutritional needs and their relationships with food as a whole. In fact, you may find that even your own eating habits may require some tweaking.
Give employees ample break times
By law, employers are required to give their full-time employees a minimum of 20 minutes of uninterrupted break time in the middle of the work day. Yet, one study that surveyed 133 companies in the UK found that 6% of employees regularly skip lunch altogether. This figure may seem trivial, but it equates to 84,000 employees in the NHS alone.
Everyone needs adequate time to refuel and gather their thoughts. Employers must know that it’s far more advantageous to enforce a proper lunch break for employee morale, health, and productivity. The aforementioned study highlights that companies also risk a loss of productivity and high turnover rates when their employees’ physical and mental well-being are ignored.
Provide employees with the right resources
One way to help boost your employees’ overall health is by providing them with adequate support both in and out of the workplace. Individuals requiring a more comprehensive lifestyle change can be encouraged to search for “weight loss workshops near me” for help outside of work. These workshops emphasise the importance of balanced eating, mindfulness, and sustainable habits, all of which can positively impact employee well-being and productivity. Best of all, employees can participate from virtually anywhere. This means that they can learn new behaviour change techniques during breaks or downtime without the need to transfer to another location.
By facilitating access to these virtual workshops, employers can promote better eating habits and nutrition awareness among their workforce. Meanwhile, other employees may be pointed in the direction of the updated nutrition guidelines from the Eatwell Guide to start making minor adjustments to their eating habits. The Eatwell Guide, for instance, encourages adults to consume at least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables per day.
Keep your office pantry stocked with healthy snacks
In food retail, most promotions are for foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat. As a result, customers end up purchasing food items that are cheap but inadequately nutritious. To combat this, don’t simply provide your employees with resources like the Eatwell Guide — stock your workplace pantry with wholesome alternatives from oranges to nuts so that they can successfully consume the recommended five portions of fruit per day. Alternatively, your offices can collaborate with catering and craft services, which promote healthier choices while meeting CSR targets.
Your employees’ nutrition and healthy eating habits are imperative to ensuring an active and conducive work environment. Try the above tips to reap the benefits of promoting such habits in the workplace. For more information on how you can help your employees flourish, check out our other resources on mental health awareness in the workplace.