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Scientists working in the relatively new field of nutritional psychiatry have identified some important and helpful correlations between food and mood.
In addition to being interesting, these findings can be useful for employers who can use the information to not only boost staff morale, but also improve productivity. Find out why you should be prioritising healthy nutrition in the workplace.
Workplace wellness programmes
This can mean different things to different companies, covering everything from fitness at work to advice for quitting smoking.
Many forward-thinking companies have adopted a more holistic approach towards taking care of the wellbeing of their employees. In addition to giving consideration to their physical work environment, these employers take into account the impacts of diet and nutrition on their workforce.
What are the benefits of improving nutrition at work?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a healthy diet has a positive impact not only on mood, but also on productivity. By actively encouraging employees to eat with nutrition in mind, you could notice:
- Decreased stress levels among staff.
- Overall improvement in team morale.
- A reduction in staff absences.
- A higher output of work.
Tips to get you started improving employee health
Companies can try a range of methods to improve employee health. These might include things like promoting healthy-eating campaigns, or making nutritious food more accessible at work.
A healthy diet has a positive impact not only on mood, but also on productivity
Here are some easy-to-adopt ideas to consider:
- Supply an in-office fruit bowl.
Fresh fruit has a wealth of benefits to our health, and is relatively inexpensive. Consider introducing a complimentary fruit bowl for your staff to enjoy throughout the day.
- Actively promote nutrition awareness.
This could mean adding some impactful posters to the office which explain the importance of nutrition; or it could mean conducting some training about health and diet.
- Support charities through healthy eating.
Consider incorporating nutrition into topical and charity events. You could promote ‘foods to eat to avoid a cold’ in winter, or ‘heart-smart’ foods during the National Heart Month of February (or even just Valentine’s Day).
- Introduce a Micro Market
These unmanned shops can supply different drinks, snacks and meals which are available for purchase with a digital, self-checkout. By adding a Micro Market to the office, employees have more access to healthy food.
Understanding mood-boosting foods
While there is yet much more to be understood, the existing research in nutritional psychiatry largely demonstrates how diet can directly impact on a person’s mood and performance.
Because of their individual properties, different foods can be recommended for various reasons. By understanding these, employers can become aware of the sort of food they should be promoting.
Property: Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Benefits: These combat the effects of free radicals – harmful molecules which naturally occur in the body, including the brain.
Sources: Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Benefits: A regular intake of glucose is necessary to stabilise blood-sugar levels and, in turn, energy.
Sources: Grains, wholewheat bread, potatoes and pasta.
Property: Omega-3 fatty acids
Benefits: There is evidence to suggest that Omega-3 can improve thinking skills, in the form of problem-solving and memory.
Sources: Fish, nuts and seeds, and beans.
How to assess the impacts of improving nutrition in the workplace
After putting effort into finding the best ways to promote nutrition in the workplace, employers will no doubt want to see some success.
There are a number of ways to measure the impact of such changes, such as:
Measuring productivity before and after implementation.
After making the decision to introduce some healthy eating ideas, it’s a good idea to start measuring employee productivity. If this is already monitored, continue keeping detailed records so that you can quickly recognise any changes later on.
Carry out employee satisfaction surveys.
This is a more long-term option, as employers will need to gather data before any nutrition-focused changes are made, and for a long time afterwards. These surveys can be a helpful way to monitor general morale and stress levels among staff.
Recording and analysing absences.
With an improved diet, staff should become healthier in general. This should therefore mean less sickness and consequently less time off work. By properly recording employee absences, it will be easy to see any improvements after implementing changes.
Should you focus on nutrition in the workplace?
In a work environment there are so many things to think about, but it’s important to make sure that the health and wellness of your employees doesn’t fall by the wayside.
While it may not always be possible to invest masses of time and effort into something like nutrition, by implementing just a few simple ideas you could quickly see all sorts of benefits.
Start small, and if it works, you might find that more nutrition-based office initiatives become a big part of your company culture.
About the author
Jane Freeman is a resourcing partner at Selecta