By Emma Davidson, Area Retail Manager – City of London, Express Vending
Many employers now rank improving employee wellness as a top priority. However, even in light of this only 183 companies in the UK have signed up to the Department of Health’s Public Health Responsibility Deal. The average British adult consumes a third of their daily calories during working hours, making it imperative for employers to encourage their staff to consume nutritious choices in the workplace.
So, how can businesses support employees in making good nutritional choices to improve workplace health and wellbeing?
Review in-house facilities
It is essential to offer healthy food and drink options in your staff canteen and vending machines to support employee health, especially as research has shown half of employees do not leave the office at lunchtime.
Many employees want a diverse range of food options, but it’s not a good thing if it makes them feel they need never go home. Providing free or subsidised in-house catering is an excellent perk, but employers must be careful about this as staff can end up working 24/7, never leaving their desks.
Providing an area for employees to have a break away from their workstations is a good way to combat this. Areas should provide space and seating for colleagues to engage with one another, who wouldn’t otherwise interact. This also gives employees a more informal environment to talk to their managers.
When picking an in-house caterer, look for a company that offers different options that are constantly updated as flexibility regarding menu options is key. An ideal caterer should be willing to handle special requests such as preparing vegetarian, vegan or kosher meals.
Provide free or subsidised healthy food
It’s well-known in business there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. However, this is not the case in many modern workplaces. Google is rumoured to have a rule that workers must be within 150-feet rule from a food outlet – obviously a huge perk for employees.
Free or subsidised healthy food improves morale and can have a more direct impact on employee productivity, which can be highly beneficial to employers. Instead of becoming stressed waiting in line for ‘fast’ food and worrying about being out of the office for too long, your employees can access lunch internally, and continue to chat about business with co-workers in a more relaxed setting.
Small businesses can benefit from nutritious food offerings too. A cost-effective option is serving staff free continental breakfasts a few times a week. Muesli, yoghurt, coffee and similar fare are inexpensive, though could have a big impact on staff morale and productivity. There are some requirements that must be met but, in general, when an employer provides lunch, snacks, and/or drinks to employees on the premises, the cost is tax deductible.
Invest in wellbeing workshops
Wellness workshops allow businesses to communicate health education in an engaging and increasingly interactive way to employees. Offering employees workshops from nutrition experts, qualified chefs or fitness specialists can inspire them to cook from scratch, improving their diet and demonstrating employers appreciate staff and their well-being.
Educational workshops can be tailored to achieve your own business goals, such as lowering employee absence, reducing health insurance claims or decreasing smoking amongst staff. These offerings can not only improve employee health but also increase business morale, leading to greater staff retention and productivity.
However it’s worth bearing in mind, younger generations are creating an inherent social networking framework in the workplace. This means companies must continue to focus on modernising benefits to ‘gamify’ wellness and encourage social interaction at work.
Use technology to improve nutrition and fitness
It is estimated by 2021, more than 500m wearable devices will be given out by businesses to boost employee health. Companies are increasingly moving towards technology innovations such as this to promote healthier lifestyles.
The activity in steps, networking and health-conscious nudges mean these tools are a constant reminder to ‘stay on the right track’. Businesses can even create a competitive element, giving employees points they can redeem for incentives.
Companies should invest in wearable integration platforms, that allow all employees to upload and share fitness updates from wearables they already own. This means employers won’t have to spend additional budget unnecessarily and everyone can be included in ongoing health initiatives.
Online stores such as Google Play and iTunes have a range of apps that can help employees eat better or work around food allergies. Promoting the use of healthy eating apps can also provide employees with easily accessible information on nutrition, any time they want it.