No piece of cake: Improving employee health & nutrition at work
In today's newly health-focused corporate culture, the majority of employers emphasize physical activity in the company's employee health program. However, the downside is that often, the same employers neglect another important part of the employee wellness puzzle, i.e. good nutrition.
As per the Institute for Health Metrics, a poor diet affects health more than poor fitness by about 300%.
The results of an ICMR-INDIAB study indicate that general obesity affects up to 31.3% of the population, while abdominal obesity affects up to 36.3% of the population.
- In India, the rate of abdominal or central obesity is a major cause for concern, as it is one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVDs). Surprisingly, it has been reported by multiple studies that the prevalence of obesity among females is considerably higher in comparison to their male counterparts.
Four ways to improve employees' diet at the workplace
As most corporate professionals spend a minimum of 40 hours at work every week, many of their day-to-day health decisions revolve around the working environment. Hence, this is the best chance for managers and leaders to assist employees in tackling the challenge of having a healthy diet. Here are four ways to improve employees' dietary habits and the overall kinds of food available at the workplace:
Review the food options available at the workplace - It can be a challenging task to solve a problem when one doesn't understand the scope of the problem. It is important to assess everything related to dietary practices followed by the company's cafeteria such as the control over portion sizes and the range of healthy food and drink options available. By carrying out such a review, HR managers can then determine problem areas and the level of priority to be given to areas of concern.
Make healthy food available at meetings & events - Along with the usual snacks and food brought in for any event, provide healthy alternatives like a selection of fruits and vegetables as well. If a caterer is handling the food for an event, ask for healthier, lower-calorie items while planning the menu. Some methods to do so can be to include portion control options, whole-grain or organic food items, low sodium snacking options and replacing soft drinks with water and other lower-calorie refreshments.
Behavioural economics as a dietary tool - According to findings by economic research scholars in the field of behavioural economics, the biggest influencer of people's behaviour is context, not individual intention. This can be used by HR professionals and leaders to modify employees' diets and help them make healthier choices. Putting unhealthy snacks in opaque containers or making them harder to access may help employees make the choice to choose more easily accessible healthier food options. This is just one example of using behavioural economics for the benefit of the masses.
Help employees learn cooking - Often, employees are aware of their unhealthy diet, but are unable to choose the alternative due to a lack of skill in cooking. Employers may make all the right decisions when it comes to diet at the workplace, but helping employees become independent on convenience at home will go a long way in building a healthy habit. Enabling employees to grow their meal planning and cooking skills will provide a boost to employee morale through an interesting and social learning experience.
Having a healthy diet and a comprehensive wellness program at the workplace often has a meaningful impact on employees' overall health and wellness. Foods high in nutrition can help raise cognitive functions, thereby increasing the employee’s performance at work. It is a well-documented fact that high employee wellness is directly proportional to higher creativity and productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that good nutrition increases mass productivity levels by up to 20%. Employees who enjoy good health also report being happier, calmer, more engaged, are able to get better sleep and do not get sick as often as before.
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