A company’s most valuable asset is its employees, and employee health is the top indicator of employee productivity. Yet more than a third of adults are obese, putting them at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and significantly compromising their output. Full-time workers who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health problems cost employers more than $153 billion in lost productivity each year, and without the benefit of scale, small businesses are especially affected by unhealthy employees.
Thankfully, good health is 80% what we put on our plates and into our bodies, and improving employee health through healthy eating habits can noticeably improve workplace productivity and maximum output. Here are five rules to help you get started!
- Hydrate better
Keep a water bottle handy at all times. Buy reusable ones, slap on your company stickers—whatever it takes to make it your third arm. Often a well-loved bottle is all it takes to stay hydrated, but if some extra inspiration is required, try tossing in chopped fruit or herbs. Some tasty combinations are: watermelon and mint (or cucumber), lemon and basil, orange and mango, and lime and ginger. Why choose tap or sparkling water over soda or energy drinks? Water doesn’t contain any added sugar which can kill productivity when the dreaded “sugar crash” strikes. The crash in-turn triggers cravings for more sweet stuff, cascading into a death spiral of lost productivity. Soda has double the amount of sugar that one should consume in an entire day, quickly converts into fat, can lead to feeling sluggish, cause cavities (who can afford to lose (wo)man power to a day at the dentist?!), and can increase one’s risk of chronic disease—all costly to a business.
- Embrace afternoon tea
Coffee is delicious, but too much is dehydrating and causes the jitters, which impacts productivity (and with back-to-back coffee meetings throughout the day, the cups add up!). Swap coffee for green tea after 12pm—it has much less caffeine, which means an energy boost without the shakes. Green tea also has L-theanine, which is beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks—clearly a boon for business!
- Fiber, protein, and healthy fat at each meal
It’s easy to grab a muffin in the morning or scrounge together a couple of granola bars or fast food for lunch. But well-balanced meals that include fiber, protein and healthy fats will not only boost energy, they’ll also curb those pesky afternoon cravings that lead to one unintentionally eating an entire bag of Fun Size Twix at one’s desk. Opt for a breakfast that doesn’t contain added sugar, such as plain yogurt with berries and a tablespoon of nut butter. And choose a nutritious lunch (or pack a lunch to save some time) such as an avocado, egg and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread; or a grain bowl with brown rice, roasted veggies, and a small piece of chicken or fish. Whatever one is craving, including at least one fruit and/or vegetable in every meal is crucial to maintaining energy and staying satisfied. These meals may take a few extra minutes to prepare before coming to work, but that time will be recuperated in added productivity.
- Eat tech-free
Sometimes it’s impossible to peel oneself away from the phone or computer. But eating tech-free will provide the mental break needed to stay fresh throughout the day. It will also improve digestion, and enjoyment of one’s meal, leading to fewer cravings during that afternoon slump. Put the phone (and smartwatch) in a drawer, catch up on some reading, or eat with another human being! Taking a few minutes to oneself while eating can work wonders for efficiency throughout the day.
- Choose whole-food snacks
Snacking is inevitable, but most office snacks (cue the never ending candy jar) do more harm than good. They are often packed with sugar and calories, and seriously lack nutrients, driving employees to eat more and feel unsatisfied. Swap out chips, sugary cereal, and candy for whole food snacks like fresh fruit, dried (unsweetened) fruit such as mango or pear, raw nuts, raw veggies with hummus, and plain yogurt. Keep the crunch or sweetness, but with the whole-food benefits of fiber and nutrients needed to keep everyone satiated and energized.