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Healthy Eating Week: what makes a truly healthy workplace?

Healthy Eating Week: what makes a truly healthy workplace?
5 minute read

The British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week 2023 runs from 12th – 16th June. This year’s theme, “Healthy Eating – For Everyone!” reflects some barriers to creating a healthy lifestyle for all in 2023.

“With the current cost-of-living crisis, it is essential that we come together as a society to ensure everyone can afford to make their lives healthier. We hope the Healthy Eating Week resources will enable individuals and communities to bring a positive effect in their diets and health.” – Claire Theobald, Education Services Manager at The British Nutrition Foundation.

Research shows that workers spend an average of a third of their life at work. As such, your workplace is a critical community that can drive positive change in healthy eating.

We want to help you engage in promoting a healthy lifestyle and a healthy workplace with your employees through food. So, what goes into making a truly healthy workplace?

Diet in the modern workplace

According to one study, the “new normal” is taking its toll. Since the pandemic, nearly half of employees have been making more unhealthy food choices at work.

A staggering six percent frequently skip lunch altogether (equivalent to 84,000 people in the NHS workforce alone). Worse, workers feel let down by their employers, who they look to for help staying healthy. Almost a third of those making unhealthier choices cited high workloads as a reason, and 28 percent pointed to inflexible working hours.

There is hope, though. Those who found themselves making unhealthy food and lifestyle choices provided further insight. The things they felt their employers could be doing to support them better include:

  • Encouraging staff to eat away from their desks. Is a break really a break if you never leave your workspace? Aim to provide separate areas for eating and relaxing during breaks (extra marks if you can provide space outdoors). If room is an issue, you could also investigate the availability of discount schemes with local eateries to encourage staff to venture from the office.
  • Providing healthy options. Give people healthy meal and snack options on-site at reasonable prices or, even better, for free. This will mean employees are less likely to consume cheap, unhealthy convenience foods. They’ll also be less likely to experience the energy-sapping “crash”, which often follows the overconsumption of sugar and carbs. With suitable options to hand, the dreaded post-lunchtime lull in productivity could be a thing of the past.
  • Offering gym discounts. With more accessible fitness facilities, staff can make amends for the occasional poor dietary decision. A conveniently-located gym can provide a lunchtime haven and some valuable head space. An energising boost of physical activity before, during, or after work can benefit all.
  • Offering flexible working hours. Fixed working hours may drive workers toward unhealthy eating habits. It's all too tempting, for example, to miss breakfast when facing a longer commute during rush hour. Where possible, offering flexible hours enables staff to build their working day around a healthy, consistent food routine.
  • Offering mental health support. A healthy mind is as important as a healthy diet. More than one in seven workers reports experiencing mental health issues at work. Make a plan to support them just as you do for physical first aid. Without consideration, the workplace can easily become a source of stress and anxiety.

Healthy, happy, high performers

It’s no surprise that our diet has a direct impact on our levels of happiness. Studies suggest a high-fibre diet, high in plant-based foods, healthy fats and proteins, reduces the risk of mental health issues.

This becomes highly relevant to employers when you consider that employee happiness increases productivity by 13 percent. Encouraging healthy choices is a win-win business strategy.

With people more willing to open up about their wellbeing, the key to a healthy workplace can be as simple as listening to them. Luckily, large-scale studies into what makes a healthy workplace have done the hard work for you. Some organisational and cultural factors to consider include:

  • A sense of control. Employees who feel trusted are less likely to experience ill health. Instilling a sense of trust is about more than promoting flexible working policies or doing away with set break times. Involve employees in decision-making so they feel that their experiences and feedback are valued.
  • Organisational fairness. When treated well at work, we are more likely to be engaged and perform at a higher level. A fair organisational structure values mutual respect, strong interpersonal relationships, and honest communication.
  • The effort/reward balance. The demotivating effect of high effort receiving inadequate reward can impact mental wellbeing. Unrewarded effort can manifest in many ways. Ensure that overtime never becomes the norm and that workers are always compensated for it. Review recruitment and avoid staff holding more responsibilities than required in their role. Benchmark salaries and benefits against competitors in your industry to ensure your workforce is adequately rewarded for their effort.

How to get involved with Healthy Eating Week 2023

So, back to where we started. How can you best engage in Healthy Eating Week to show your ongoing support for a truly healthy workplace?

  1. Make a plan. Register ahead of time to receive the latest resources and updates from The British Nutrition Foundation and tips on planning events to get your employees engaged this Healthy Eating Week.
  2. Get involved. Take part in the foundation’s Healthy Eating Week workplace webinar. Be part of the conversation, sharing your experiences and challenges. You can help shape the future as you aim to create a healthy workplace for 2023 and beyond. We at HealthHero also run regular webinars for you to participate in and share knowledge.
  3. Spread the word. Get social using the official Healthy Eating Week hashtag, #HEW23. Connect with The British Nutrition Foundation, @NutritionOrgUk and @HealthHeroNews on Twitter.

Help in fostering a truly healthy workplace

Coming up with a comprehensive strategy to provide a workforce with all it needs to stay healthy in body and mind can be daunting. Our workplace health and wellbeing app, Symbio, empowers your employees with tailor-made tools and advice to support healthy lifestyle choices. Book a demo to see more.

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