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4th Sep, 2023

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Digital Content Writer

Nutrition and employee performance

When the cost-of-living crisis was at its peak, some employers began offering free food to their employees in an effort to support them.

Nutrition has a direct impact on cognitive function, energy levels, and overall health. A workforce that is well-nourished is likely to be more alert, focused, and productive – which is why many employers are focused on providing healthier food choices in their canteens. This commitment to staff wellbeing can ultimately lead to improved job satisfaction and engagement, reducing absenteeism and workplace accidents.

Being an employer of choice

Prospective employees consider workplace culture and benefits when evaluating job opportunities, so an investment in nutritional health can be a powerful recruitment tool, appealing to health-conscious professionals looking for an employer that cares about their physical and mental wellbeing.

Both Generation Z and Millennials are highly concerned with the social value of the company they work for. According to KPMG data, one-in-three young people will turn down a role if the company’s environmental, social and governance policy doesn’t match their values.

Workplace nutrition initiatives not only attract talent but indicate a progressive attitude, aligning with that of younger workers. This can also contribute to long-term employee loyalty. People are more likely to remain with a company that invests in their health and provides amenities that promote a healthy lifestyle.

Should we eliminate snacks at work altogether?

Earlier this year, Susan Jebb, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, made a controversial statement likening bringing cake into the office to second-hand smoking. However, the real issue in Jebb’s claim is not the cake itself, but the peer pressure to eat what someone has brought in for everyone. The answer to this isn’t necessarily to eliminate cake or other unhealthy foods, but to change the culture of the workplace to encourage healthier eating, reduce peer pressure and exposure to temptation.

While it might be more physically healthy to limit this practice to special occasions, there are several reasons why bringing in snacks for the whole team is beneficial to businesses. It boosts morale, gives the group a chance to interact socially in working hours, and promotes team building. For new starters, it can be an ice breaker, helping them to discover the group dynamic.

Some people can be more sensitive to conversations around food and dieting than others, and this should be considered in your approach to employee engagement with any initiatives your business establishes. The aim of providing healthy options is about making it easier for people to make healthier choices if they wish to do so, rather than enforcing certain lifestyle goals for your workforce. Ultimately, it is up to individuals to look after their own nutritional health, and healthy initiatives should be optional for all.

Creating a healthier work environment

Implementing effective nutrition programmes requires a multi-faceted approach encompassing various aspects of the work environment:

Nutritious cafeteria and vending options – offer a range of balanced meal choices, including vegetarian and vegan options. Reduce the sugary snacks in vending machines and replace some of them with healthier alternatives.

Subsidised meal programmes – provide employees with access to affordable, or free, nutritious meals, encouraging healthier eating habits.

Nutritional labelling – clearly display nutritional information for all cafeteria and vending options, empowering employees to make informed decisions about their intake.

Wellness workshops and seminars – organise workshops on healthy eating, meal planning, and stress management to educate employees about making informed dietary choices. As part of this education, it’s important to inform your workforce on eating disorders and disordered eating.

Provide professional advice – employ, or give employees access to, nutrition experts and specialist dieticians who can provide personalised guidance and advice to employees, addressing their dietary needs and concerns.

Healthy office culture – encourage a workplace culture that values breaks for meals and snacks, promoting mindful eating and reducing stress-related eating.

Measuring initiatives for success

With any companywide initiative, leaders must monitor its progress and continuously improve it. To assess the effectiveness of workplace nutrition initiatives, companies can track key metrics such as:

Employee satisfaction surveys – regularly gather feedback from employees to gauge their satisfaction with the available food options and nutritional support.

Health metrics – monitor changes in employee health indicators, such as weight management, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

Productivity and performance – measure changes in productivity and job performance to evaluate the impact of improved nutrition on overall output.

Turnover rates – compare turnover rates before and after implementing nutrition initiatives to quantify the effect on employee retention.

Final thoughts

Investing in workplace nutrition initiatives can offer a significant advantage when it comes to talent attraction. By prioritising the wellbeing of employees through nutritious food options and educational resources, organisations can attract and retain top talent, foster loyalty, and create a healthier and more engaged workforce.

As companies continue to adapt to evolving employee expectations, embracing a nutrition-focused approach is not only a strategic move but a commitment to the holistic success of both the organisation and its workforce.

Note: if you believe you (or someone you know) might have disordered eating or an eating disorder (i.e., anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or avoidant, restrictive, food-intake disorder), contact your GP, check NHS guidance online, or visit the eating disorder charity BEAT’s website for more information, and to seek help from a professional.

To find your next role or a talented professional to join your company, contact your nearest Reed office.