The way people work has changed. Pre-pandemic habits now feel like a distant memory; a time when going to work was without any precautions. For the foreseeable future, many of our new habits will continue, including; socially distanced workspaces, regular stopping points to sanitise your hands and covering your nose and mouth with a face mask during the morning commute.
Remote working has put a spotlight on workplace wellness. Ask any office manager or facilities manager. They’ll tell you about the additional efforts they made to protect their employee’s wellbeing since 2020, from the ‘work from home’ order during lockdowns to when offices reopened with hybrid workplace solutions.
But where do healthy workplace meals fit into all of this?
With employee health at the forefront of discussions, now is the time for companies to consider what else they can be doing to improve their team’s wellbeing. We believe that high-quality meals in the workplace are an effective way to look after employees health.
So, why is employee nutrition important?
Throughout the average Briton’s lifetime, they’ll spend 3,507 days working. So, that’s 3,507 lunchtimes that could either support an employee’s health or damage it. It all adds up! That’s why employers must take a more active role in ensuring that their teams are eating in a way that sustains their wellbeing.
Today, there’s a problem with the way we’re eating, and it’s having a huge impact on UK businesses. Research from Vitality uncovered that the UK economy lost 92 billion pounds due to ill-health. One academic report published on Frontiers comments,
“Food is readily available in developed countries but there is an evident split-up between scientific evidence, food choices, and dietary patterns of consumers. This, over time, has favored the spread of the obesity epidemic and other diet-related diseases.”
The eating culture of developed countries, such as the UK, is causing a decline in health. If employers roll up their sleeves and become part of the solution, not only will their workforce prosper – but society as a whole. A report published by the University of British Columbia emphasises the benefits,
“Promoting and/or offering physical activity and proper nutrition at the workplace has been shown to increase activity and improve dietary choices both during and outside of work hours. Further, diet quality and activity levels together play major roles in a person’s overall quality of life”
Employers have the power to improve their employee’s daily lives by caring for their nutrition. With so much of an office worker’s life spent at work with so many unhealthy food options on the high street, employers are uniquely positioned to offer healthier alternatives in the office canteen.
Healthier employees sound great, but how does it benefit the business?
There’s a clear value for why employers should maintain a healthier workforce. First and foremost, healthy employees carry out their daily tasks with greater productivity. Nicolaas Pronk, vice president for health management at Health Partners, argues for the benefits of a healthy workforce,
“What’s the value of people coming to work with a smile? What’s the value of having people on the phone responding to your customers in a good mood, who can solve problems because they’re there, they’re present, they’re working with attention to detail? What’s the value of individual workers working well together in teams?”
Well-being initiatives, such as healthy workplace meals, bring your teams together and positively impacts workplace culture. When employees acknowledge that their company considers their health as a priority, there is an improved culture of collaboration. One particular report, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, has this to say:
“…organizations must address the obstacles and create the conditions for employees to practice a healthy lifestyle.6 By doing so, employee well-being initiatives have the potential not only to improve personal health behaviours but to impact teamwork, trust, and respect within a work team.”
What this statement gets right is how wellbeing initiatives, such as healthy meals at work, can address obstacles that are getting in the way of healthy lifestyles. Nobody benefits from employees spending lunches at the desk ‘al desko’ and not taking proper breaks from work. Whilst such habits express an employee’s dedication to their work, there’s really no tangible productivity benefits to be gained from it.
Ultimately, the smooth running of a business depends on the health of its employees. Investing in fresh and nourishing meals at the office canteen pale in comparison to the long term cost of neglecting your workforce’s health.
And then the pandemic happened…
While the fundamentals of nutrition haven’t changed during the pandemic, the way people work has done so dramatically. The majority of office workers have been working from home for most of 2020 and 2021. For some, this has been a new lease of life for cooking healthy homemade meals. For others, the pressures of home and work life have resulted in poor diet choices.
The Food and Coronavirus’ report published by Imperial College London, includes a comment from Dr Kevin Walsh about the impact of those working from home or on furlough:
“Food delivery and snacking behaviours in this environment could be expected to rise, adding to energy, fat, salt and sugar intake. Although these foods can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet, higher than normal intake over an extended period of isolation could contribute to undesirable weight gain and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
The move to home working makes it difficult for companies to ensure that their employees have easy access to healthy food. The onus has been on the employee to provide their own worktime meals. There’s a risk that employees will opt for quick, easy and unhealthy meals to avoid being away from their work screens for too long. As employees return to their desks, employers should ensure that everyone in the office is encouraged to eat healthier.
Now is the time for businesses to rip up the old rulebook on workplace wellness and consider how they can transform their office into a destination where people want to be. Within the hybrid work model, employees will visit their workplace to collaborate, innovate and build a real-world rapport with their colleagues, leaving the tasks that demand more focus for home days.
If we want employees to work in the office a few days a week, their work environments need to support their physical and mental health. In our opinion, nothing provides this sort of assurance quite like a high-quality workplace meal.
Nourishing meals, eaten away from the desk, offer employees a much-needed break from their busy days. It’s also an opportunity to get some close contact with their colleagues. But perhaps most of all, it encourages employees to adopt better eating habits that enable them to thrive inside and outside of the workplace.
So, how can Fooditude support the wellbeing of your employees?
Our chefs develop menus that strike the perfect balance between health and taste. All our meals are cooked from scratch with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. As a result, we provide the nourishment our client’s teams need to thrive in the workplace and out.
Because we deliver the food from our cloud kitchen, you can decide to repurpose your old kitchen areas into areas focused on wellbeing – including break rooms, extended dining areas or collaboration spaces.
The way our delivered-in catering works gives you added flexibility; your food order can be adapted to match the number of people in the office on a specific day. This makes our catering model uniquely positioned to support clients who follow a hybrid way of working. Click here to discover more.