When we think about the factors that contribute to workplace performance, we rarely give much consideration to food and well-being. We usually think about employee work tracking software to help us enhance performance. If you’re a good boss/business owner, you surely hope that your coworkers lead a balanced, healthy lifestyle; but hey – even if they don’t, it’s none of your business, right?
Not only do unhealthy habits of all employees create risks for the company in terms of sick days and health insurance, but they also truncate the overall performance by gradually lowering yours and your staff’s productivity. A study from the journal Population Health Management implicates that poor eating and exercising habits could be taking a toll on areas other than the waistline – it could also affect how productive one is at work.
In fact, our friends from ZeroCater have done some research and discovered some rather fascinating numbers related to this topic. Take a look at their infographic, which nicely displays just how much health impacts employee productivity, and how it affects their companies:
Ultimately, this makes perfect sense. Just like your car needs premium fuel in order to run smoothly, or your computer needs regular maintenance and cleaning to remain fast and high-performance, so do your body and mind. When we eat, part of the nutrients feed our brain in the form of glucose. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.
However, not all foods are processed by our bodies at the same rate; some foods, like pasta, bread, cereal and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high-fat meals (cheeseburgers, fries, meaty dishes) provide more sustained energy but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us sleepy and groggy.
Most of us already know all of this, but why do we still chose to eat badly? If we can remain dogged and stay in the office working hard on a beautiful sunny day, why can’t we resist French fries and mozzarella sticks for lunch as well? In part, it’s because we’re at our lowest point in both energy and self-control when deciding what to eat. That’s right – the Snickers commercial got it right (which, however, does not make a chocolate bar your best snacking choice). Moreover, unhealthy food is cheaper, faster and easier to get to, which makes it feel efficient, as if we’re actually benefiting by stopping by for a slice of pizza with lots of veggies. Right.
So, what can we do?
One possible solution to this might be to make lunch plans before you get hungry – after breakfast, or during your morning snack. Additionally, try to make healthy snacking easier than unhealthy snacking. Place a container of almonds and a selection of protein bars by your computer, near your line of vision. Bring a bag of fruit to the office on Mondays so that you have it available throughout the week. And, most importantly, organize your meals into smaller, more frequent portions, instead of relying on a midday feast.
However, since one of the greatest challenges in any office environment is that people are sedentary, a healthy diet doesn’t seem to be enough in order for workers to remain mentally well-nourished. In today’s world of minimal physical work, body exercise becomes a part of hygiene. Still, you don’t have to sweat on the treadmill every other day in order to maintain mental agility – simple things like walking or riding a bike a couple of times a week, walking around when you make phone calls, or even adopting a dog and going out with it couple of times a day – why not? – could bring a positive change to your organization and into your life as a whole.
As far as your employees are concerned, of course you can’t possibly force them into eating what you consider to be healthy, or make them go to gym in order to raise their productivity and efficiency. But there are various ways to aid them in improving their well-being – some companies offer free gym or spa memberships, some encourage participation in public races and marathons or team-building events in nature, or simply select healthy meals and snacks when providing food for their employees.
Whatever it is that you choose, keep in mind that the single most important thing you can control is to make sure you lead by example, not only when it comes to raw work, but equally in the ways you organize your habits and lifestyle. As a boss, it is your responsibility to lead by doing, or in this case – eating.