As we settle into our Friday afternoon at work with a cup of tea, many of us naturally find ourselves wandering towards the office biscuits and treats.
In the corporate environment however, nutrition-orientated corporate wellness programmes are hot on the agenda. Diabetes and heart disease are epidemics, both are largely food-related illnesses, therefore the business case for building your workforce’s wellness through improving employees’ eating habits is proven, right?
Fitness programmes and healthy eating, although logical, have been shown to not solely promote wellness. There is no doubt that poor food choices and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute to an employee’s wellness, and getting people to eat better could certainly reduce the incidences of those diseases. But these are programmes haven’t worked, and it’s not because we haven’t done enough to police the work kitchen fridge; it’s because these strategies are too literal-minded.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices are not a disease – they’re a symptom. People are not necessarily eating unhealthy because of limited food options; they are eating poorly because they are fed up with everything else.
Food is a simple way to comfort stress, conflict and negativity, especially in the workplace, much like those who lounge in front of the television instead of heading outside, reaching for the fizzy drinks instead of water. We all know what the healthier options are, and we can easily find them if we choose to. When we look for the chocolate and sweets, we are holding up our ‘white flags’ and admitting that ‘everything else is out of my control, so I’m finding comfort in this’.
Tackling employee wellbeing through food is much like trying to fix a puncture by blowing more air into the tyre. It’s great in the short-term however, it does not confront the real problem.
It’s exactly the same for our workforces. We are not going to see great results from deflated colleagues. To truly fix the problem, we must look a little deeper.
But what are the real problems? Our workforces face a wide variety of challenges, both at home and at work. The Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, shows that for 84% of employees, families and relationships are the number one priority, but often we are worrying about taking care of our families, staying late at work to meet our job roles and the possibility of caring for our own parents in the next 10 years.
So, that’s the fuel for our unhealthy choices, and it’s a challenge that faces us all. Instead of policing our diets and fitness regimes, what we need is care for our dependants and a workforce culture that enables us to bring our whole selves to work. In turn, we will see colleagues reaching for the fruit bowl, rather than the packet of double-chocolate chip cookies.
There are lots of other initiatives we can do to boost our employees’ health. From creating a positive working environments to providing flexibility in role, supporting people with real solutions and empowering them to make better choices. As a result, we will have a workforce who are less stressed and have the motivation to eat better, work harder and live healthier lives.
That’s certainly food for thought.