Businesses are struggling to improve employee health and wellness. By implementing corporate wellness programs, they are focusing on holistic wellness dimensions for better health and wellbeing.
For a long time, health and wellbeing were primarily acknowledged by physical wellness alone. Although to keep up with the evolving health and wellbeing trends, corporate wellness programs are focusing on other holistic dimensions too, physical health and wellbeing are prioritized.
Nutrition and physical activity contribute to physical wellbeing. Studies show a requirement ratio of 80:20 for diet and exercise, respectively for overall health and wellbeing.
A recent Harris Poll survey revealed that almost 61% of the respondents had undesired weight changes during the pandemic, with 42% facing weight gain. The most important factors that led to such unwanted weight changes were – stress eating, little or no dietary restraints, untimely eating, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of sleep.
There is a lot of evidence showing that unhealthy employees are less productive at work. A BYU study said there was a 66% chance for employees with unhealthy eating habits to slack off at their jobs, causing lost productivity. Also, there was a 93% chance for individuals who rarely ate vegetables or fruits to be unproductive. All these could mean that unhealthy eating habits can cause organizations to lose a lot of dollars towards lost productivity and healthcare costs.
Why Workplace Nutrition must be Focused On?
What we eat impacts our overall health and wellbeing. While eating nutritious food can help with lasting good health, unhealthy eating and poor nutrition can cause chronic health diseases, and affecting their quality of life and productivity.
In short, an unhealthy diet can cause health and wellbeing issues like –
- Poor physical health
- Poor mental health
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Quick and easy fatigue
- Low energy levels
- Reduced cognitive skills
On the other hand, a nutritious diet makes employees active and healthy, improving productivity, morale, and reduces healthcare costs and absenteeism rates.
How to Improve Employee Wellbeing with Workplace Nutrition?
As the impact of nutrition and eating habits is evident on employee wellbeing and productivity, employers must focus on workplace nutrition through their corporate wellness programs. Here are some simple, yet effective strategies to improve employee eating habits through corporate wellness programs.
1. Conducting Polls and Employee Pulse Surveys
Healthy or unhealthy eating is a lifestyle habit, and it is difficult to change it overnight. Unless employees are sure about making the changes, they will not engage in any corporate wellness challenges or healthy activities. Conducting pulse surveys or polls can help understand employee interests and educate them with the right information about the corporate wellness challenges and their benefits. By knowing how many employees are looking for nutrition-based wellness programs and the different levels they need, the right wellness modules for the wellbeing program can be designed.
2. Planning Healthy Eating Programs
The nutrition-based wellness programs must include wellness challenge ideas and other activities that encourage employees to switch their eating habits to a healthier diet. Here are some methods that must be practiced at the workplace or as a part of the employee wellness programs –
- Making health and wellbeing a part of the workplace culture
- Create healthy eating wellness challenge ideas
- Substitute workplace pantry snacks and vending machines with healthier options
- Ensure the cafeteria offers more seasonal vegetables and fresh produce
- Make sure water is available handily to avoid going long distances for a bottle of water
- Gift healthy snack baskets as incentives
- Offer coupons and discounts on fresh and healthy produce
- Conduct potlucks with home-cooked food
- Organize theme or element-based cooking competitions
3. Promote Nutrition Awareness
Unless employees are constantly reminded of the nutrition wellness programs and their benefits, they may lose interest in the wellness challenge ideas and activities soon. More information and constant reminders are a great way of ensuring consistency through the employee wellness programs and wellness challenge activities.
Organize dedicated health promotion events with dieticians and nutritionists talking about healthy eating habits.
- Conduct special monthly events with healthy habits wellness challenge ideas like –
- Organizing nutrition-based talks and challenges in March – National Nutrition Month
- Following heart-healthy diet and exercises in February – National Heart Month
- Eating fresh vegetables and fruits daily in June – National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month
- Abstaining from alcohol in October – National Liver Month
- Season or Theme-based challenges fresh seasonal produce for healthy recipes
Another important factor to consider is stress. Many studies have shown that stress eating has increased during the pandemic. As employees face burnout issues, they tend to binge eat on unhealthy food options. Studies show 20% of employees has gained weight during the pandemic due to diet changes that have been caused by work-related stress. Employers must ensure employees have a work-life balance that keeps them away from stress and burnout, giving them enough time to cook healthy food and relax.
Workplace culture and ambiance play a huge role in influencing employee health and wellbeing. While a healthy environment can build a workforce camaraderie and holistic wellbeing, a stressful workplace will add to the woes and impact wellbeing and productivity. Making these wellness challenges ideas a part of the corporate wellness programs and the workplace culture will help the employees in developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits. In turn, it will make them healthy and happy, improving productivity and reducing healthcare costs.