According to Business in the Community figures, poor eating habits are costing UK employers around £17 billion a year. It’s a staggering statistic, which shouldn’t escape the attention of employers keen to drive down costs and in ways that perhaps their competitors haven’t yet cottoned on to… So what can you do to promote healthy eating at work?
You certainly don’t want to be preaching or imposing nutritional diktats on your employees (never an effective approach…) but there are small, inexpensive steps you can take towards a nutrition-smart environment that’s conducive to healthy choices.
Choice architecture not just for the staff restaurant
Nudging and choice architecture are familiar terms in the world of contract catering. It’s a fascinating branch of behavioural science which conscious foodservice providers have long been tapping into as a way to gently encourage healthy choices. The term was coined by Thaler and Sunstein in 2008 to describe the practice of influencing people’s choices simply by presenting options in a certain way. Place an appetising display of green vegetables more prominently and within easier reach than the tray of chips and they are likely to end up taking up a larger portion of your customer’s plate.
There’s no reason why nudging should be confined to the staff restaurant though. Here are some ideas that could easily be implemented in your workplace to promote healthy eating:
- Upgrade your meeting fuel
This is a quick win to help banish the sandwich and crisp platter brain drain. Speak to your catering provider about alternatives to the traditional carb rich meetings fayre. Increase options rich in protein and plant fibre. Small bowls of unsweetened nuts and seeds offered as snacks (alongside if not ‘instead of’ the biscuits or pastries) will make a big difference to energy and motivation.
- Sweet in more ways than one
Add a cinnamon shaker to the sugar and sweeteners line up by the coffee machine. Cinnamon has been shown to improve glucose metabolism (contributing to diabetes prevention) and is a tasty alternative to conventional sweeteners. A small gesture made every day (often many times a day) could add up to a huge impact throughout the year.
- Equipped for success
Sometimes just having the right tools to hand can be enough to shape new habits. Why not introduce a smoothie maker next to the toaster (preferably one that’s easy to clean…) or even an egg coddler. Simple but effective ways to promote healthy eating at work.
- Crumbs in keyboards no more
So many workers still eat lunch at their desk, with barely a pause from their screen. In order to digest properly, it’s essential for the body to achieve a parasympathetic nervous state, in other words a state of ‘rest and digest’. Not to mention that with the attention diverted to a screen, mindful eating and effective chewing go out of the window. A true recipe for digestive issues and a missed opportunity to lighten the stress burden!
How could you actively encourage your staff to leave their desk at lunchtime? If there isn’t currently a comfortable area available, it might be worth considering repurposing a space – perhaps a meeting room – which allows for relaxation and socialising.
- Hydrate to invigorate
There are many studies highlighting the downsides of a dehydrated brain: lower mood, memory and cognitive performance… certainly not what you want in the workplace. At best it could put paid to the next innovative idea, and at worst lead to health and safety being compromised (one of the studies showed that dehydration led to significantly more errors when driving).
Does your work environment provide enough access to fresh filtered drinking water? If your employees are out and about or busy serving customers, it could be as simple as offering them good quality branded reusable water bottles to carry with them, or access to pitchers to keep on their desk (little plastic cups don’t go very far, as well as being less environmentally friendly…)
Food for thought?
We’d love to hear about any ideas you’ve implemented or are thinking of putting in place to make your work environment ‘nutrition-smart’. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss ideas for your workplace – don’t miss out on our free toolkit including monthly posters to display in your workplace. The most powerful way to promote healthy eating at work will always be on-site sessions and if you’re looking to create a big buzz around nutrition, you may want to check out our nutrition discovery package.