The Workplace – June 2018
Published: 24 May 2018 By Guy Hayward
‘You are what you eat’ – it’s a concept we’ve all heard of. But it’s one that hasn’t been associated with the workplace, until recently.
While corporate wellness has been in the spotlight for a while now, it’s centred overwhelmingly on exercise, with nutrition left behind as the poor relation. It shouldn’t be: proper nutrition is a benefit we can give our people.
Why is it so important? It controls your mood, energy, concentration and feeling of fatigue. It’s scientifically proven and a whole new industry has been born from nutrition in the workplace.
I like the range of advice that Cigna offers businesses through its corporate wellness programmes, from how to get started on healthy eating through to the practical realities of making it happen. Its emphasis is on a balanced diet you can always enjoy, while avoiding dieting.
We love our annual Wellbeing Week that centres on what we eat. During one of these, a nutritional expert from ‘Life After Hummus’ – a provider of wellbeing and nutrition cooking classes – joined us in the office to teach us some cooking skills for healthy eating. The session was educational and eye-opening, but also created a wonderful vibe, with everyone sharing their own favourite recipes, including my own chicken noodle soup. Elsewhere, Survey Monkey gives employees free breakfast and lunch because it “promotes healthiness and fosters a sense of community”.
I can remember the days of sneaking off to Prêt [à Manger], grabbing a sandwich, sneaking back to the office before my boss had seen me and then spending 10 minutes eating at my desk before cracking on with my day. In the modern workplace those days are gone. Our people need the benefits that a lengthy lunch break brings.
Why not circulate a weekly, healthy lunch menu, making it fun and different every week; help your team understand food labelling; provide fruit in meeting rooms instead of chocolate biscuits; and replace the M&M’s at your desk with baby carrots and celery sticks.
Our own monthly lunch series is a firm favourite. Chef Julia cooks the whole business a tasty meal. Our daily fruit drops mean we can stock up on our five-a-day. It might be an old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but Cigna’s research supports this; respondents with poor nutrition had 50% more sickness absences than their peer group.
It’s about giving our people the knowledge and options to make better decisions when it comes to their health. Winton Capital Management is targeting this with Javier Lopez, its very own ‘food evangelist’, whose advice on the best foods to eat is invaluable.
Another firm I recently spoke to, CHX Performance, believes in this approach so much that it’s one of its key pillars, sitting where it should be – beside exercise, not dwarfed by it.
It’s the knowledge that comes from people such as Lopez and Life After Hummus that have convinced me that we all should make nutrition a workplace benefit.
And don’t forget water. The British Heart Foundation’s hydration challenge – eight cups of 200ml of water a day – is so very important.
Guy Hayward is CEO, Goodman Masson