Why is nutrition an important part of your business’s wellbeing strategy?

Employee Productivity and Nutrition

Guest Blog by Kate Wall (Rnutr), Nutritionist and Coach

There has been a lot of change in the world over the past few years with the fallout from the pandemic, cost of living crisis and general global unrest leaving people feeling more stressed at work and liable to burnout. Businesses are increasingly vulnerable to absenteeism, decreased focus and increased turnover rates.

Following the pandemic, the UK was the only G19 country which has had a net loss of workers over the age of 50. Existing heath conditions such as mental health concerns, cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal problems were all reasons for people leaving the workforce. All these conditions can be impacted by the quality of your diet. By not utilising a preventative approach we have now had a loss of skills and experience in the workforce which will have an economic impact. With 1 in 3 working age people currently living with a health condition and 131 million working days lost to sickness absence every year in the UK we can see that the impact of continuing to ignore this issue is too great and will only get bigger over time.

Healthy Nutritional Food

Do workers want support with their nutrition?

Recruitment and retention are an ever-growing challenge with two thirds of employees believing employers have a role in supporting their health and fitness.

Wellness days and activities are in the top 3 priorities of employees so introducing nutrition to the workplace is an excellent opportunity for employers to show they care and are prioritising their staff and their needs.

Is supporting nutrition in the workplace more than a moral obligation?

Public Health England’s Health Matters guidance document highlights employers’ responsibility to support healthy habits in the workplace and how it can benefit your business.  In this there is a call to action that states ‘There are some actions all employers can take to ensure the health and wellbeing of their workforce is looked after, regardless of the size of their organisation or the sector in which it lies’, this includes encouraging heathy behaviours such as eating well. 

This document highlights that supporting nutrition in the workplace is in fact an obligation rather than a choice.

How can nutrition help on this issue?

According to the Mintel health in the workplace report 2022 around half of employees feel stressed at work and 55% report reaching for unhealthy foods as a comfort when their mood is low or to manage stress.  Reliance on snacks can lead to overeating and disconnection from hunger cues.  Eating regular balanced meals and learning the skills to eat more intuitively can help to reduce the dependence on foods to cope with the stresses they feel at work. 

Healthy eating can reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and some cancers.  It can also impact bone and muscle health to reduce the musculoskeletal issues, along with supporting our mental health.  By targeting positive nutrition strategies in the workplace, you are working to reduce the risk of all the most common conditions that workers are experiencing that lead to absence from work.  

Employee Lunch Break

Good Nutrition is vital for productivity

Offering staff education and support around their nutrition goes beyond being a caring employer; adequate nutrition affects so many areas of humans that without it, energy, focus and therefore productivity can fall.  For example, the brain only accounts for 2% of your body weight, yet it uses 20% of your daily energy needs.  By regularly fuelling the brain and body with the correct nutrition we can support emotional regulation, decision making, focus, motivation and mood – all vital to being effective in the workplace.

The World Health Organisation reported adequate nutrition increases productivity by 20% and the winners of the Small Business awards for the workplace wellbeing category 2022 reported a 102% increase in productivity.  There are also reports of increased commitment and creativity in companies that support healthy habits, so it seems it pays to invest in the wellbeing of your workers. 

Healthy Foods and Diet

How can I promote healthy nutrition in the workplace?

Nutrition can support energy, mood, focus, decision making, physical health, mental health, the immune system, mobility and more – there is so much we can gain by improving the way we eat.  Here are some top tips to help you make a start on promoting nutrition in your workplace.

1. Provide equipment for healthy lunches

Access to a fridge, microwave and a toaster can really open up options for staff to bring in healthy food from home.

2. Provide healthier food options at meetings. 

By providing a range of foods at meetings it can start to change the culture.  It doesn’t mean never eat cake at a meeting again but having variety can offer a more balanced approach.    

3. Look at the foods available in your workplace

Can staff get hold of healthy options – perhaps you could swap what’s inside your vending machines or provide a fruit bowl in the staff room.

4. Make lunch breaks a must

It has become too normal to miss lunch or eat in front of a computer in this country.  By making it normal to take a break away from the desk people don’t feel guilty and prioritise getting the fuel and rest they need to come back recharged after lunch.

5. Have a workplace wellbeing strategy

There is so much poor nutrition advice, misinformation and fad diets out there that people often don’t know which way to turn.  By working with a qualified Registered Nutritionist trained in behaviour change you can engage and empower your staff to improve the health of their diets in an effective and sustainable way in alignment with the core values of the business. 

Of course, good employers want to support their staff to live purposeful work lives because they care about those they employ, but in investing in a sound wellbeing strategy for the business you can also increase the productivity and financial wellbeing of your business so it’s a win win!

Kate Wall (Rnutr) is a nutritionist and coach. She helps individuals and businesses to flourish by supporting people to live healthier, happier more confident lives without food rules or restriction.

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

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