How healthy eating can increase employee productivity

In any business, the productivity of employees is critical to its success.

That’s why many organizations look for ways to keep their employees working at maximum efficiency. From the work environment to managerial support to quality work/life balance, many dynamics contribute — and workplace nutrition is another important factor.

“Many workplace wellness programs focus on fitness and health screenings,” says Veronica Hawkins, Medical Mutual vice president of Statewide Accounts. “Encouraging employees to eat healthy should also play a key role.”

Smart Business spoke with Hawkins about why organizations should promote healthy eating and how they can do it effectively.

How does diet correlate with productivity?

Plenty of studies link good nutrition with better overall health. It makes sense. People who eat well often feel better and have more energy.

Employees who try to follow guidelines of good nutrition also reduce their risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Are there simple things leaders can do to promote healthy eating?

Leaders can set a positive example. If employees see their managers drinking water throughout the day and making good decisions about foods they eat, employees may be more apt to follow suit.

Another way is to implement an awareness campaign that encourages healthy lifestyle choices and includes tips on how to do so. This can include bulletin boards, posters or emails that focus on the benefits of nutrition, offer meal strategies and promote local farmers’ markets or restaurants with healthy menus.

Hosting healthy department potluck lunches also can get employees engaged as they try new foods and share recipes.

These are good ways to start making nutrition part of the workplace culture.

How can organizations create a culture of nutrition?

Any food ordered for meetings should include fruits, salads and other low fat items instead of donuts and pizza. Most organizations provide refrigerators and microwaves, but toasters and blenders can make it even easier for employees to bring food from home that can be prepared.

If your organization has a cafeteria and/or vending machines, make sure plenty of nutritious options are available.

At Medical Mutual, we often work with employer groups to design and implement nutrition programs that focus on healthy eating. This can also include online virtual coaching or a personal health coach through a lifestyle-coaching program.

Offering nutrition classes is another cost-effective way to reach a large number of employees and address multiple topics. These could be one-hour ‘lunch and learns’ that address specific issues, like understanding food label information, or longer seminars that delve into a variety of subjects, like stress, weight loss, etc.

Classes are a good way to bring employees together and help them support each other in making healthier choices.

Are there other resources available for organizations to use?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website offers a plethora of nutrition information. There are multiple links to fact sheets, an interactive website about improving fruit and vegetable consumption, downloadable brochures, and links to additional useful sites such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These can all be made available to employees.

If your organization makes healthy eating part of the workplace culture, it can go a long way toward keeping employees happy, healthy and productive.

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