“Older people shouldn’t eat health food”, joked the American comedy writer Robert Orben. “They need all the preservatives they can get.” Of course, in reality, good nutrition brings numerous benefits. It can increase mental acuteness, help prevent illness, promote higher energy levels, and help to foster a positive outlook. The list is endless, and very encouraging from an employer’s perspective. After all, a happy and healthy (ageing) workforce translates into a happy, healthy and more productive organisation.
What we eat has a big impact on our performance at work – from mental clarity, to energy, stamina and productivity, food governs how well our bodies and brains function. Food makes our mood. Yet food at work is too often seen as an afterthought by employers and is a missed opportunity to increase productivity and morale. Staff restaurants typically offer unhealthy selections while vending machines are stocked with sugary and fatty snacks. Employers’ workplace programmes focus on wellness – getting people fitter – and how healthy employers take less time off work. But ensuring your employees are eating the right foods is about increasing presenteeism — employees being fully engaged, energised and mentally focused on the task in hand not sitting slumped at their desks.
If the edamame beans on offer at the start of last week’s (25 October 2012) BIFM London region event exploring the role of food in boosting people’s productivity, had delegates perplexed at first, then it wasn’t to be the last time their prejudices about food were put to the test. More than 100 facilities professionals enjoyed the stunning sunset and views across the City from the 23rd floor of the 755ft tall Heron Tower while struggling to work out whether they were suppose to eat the whole pod, or just the individual beans. Fortunately with several nutritionists and wellbeing experts on the speaker panel, that dilemma, and many other food questions, were quickly resolved.
“From mental clarity, to energy, stamina and productivity, food governs how well our bodies and brains function. Aspects such as water and hydration levels significantly regulate our concentration and mental focus. A mere 2% reduction in hydration can reduce our concentration by…”
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Hold the cakes and disconnect the coke machine. Replace the meeting biscuits with fruit, nuts and smoothies. What we eat has a big impact on our performance at work – from mental clarity, to energy, stamina and productivity, food governs how well our bodies and brains function. Food makes our mood.
Yet food at work is too often seen as an afterthought by employers and is a missed opportunity to increase productivity and morale. Staff restaurants, if they exist, often offer unhealthy selections while vending machines are stocked with sugary and fatty snacks. Employers’ workplace programmes focus on wellness – getting people fitter – and how healthy employers take less time off work. But ensuring your employees are eating the right foods is about increasing presenteeism— employees being fully engaged and mentally focused on the task in hand.
And there is plenty of research to back this up. According to a vielife study of 15,000 people in the UK and US, employees with poor nutritional balance reported 21 per cent more sick-related absence and 11 per cent lower productivity than healthier colleagues. Meanwhile another vielife research project showed that the most healthy quartile of the workforce is seven hours more productive a week than the least healthy quartile.
Another study, this time by the International Labour Office, revealed that poor diet on the job is costing countries around the world up to 20 per cent in lost productivity, either due to malnutrition or excess weight. Food at Work: Workplace solutions for malnutrition, obesity and chronic diseases says better nutrition in the workplace can raise national productivity rates, while workplace meal programmes can prevent micronutrient deficiencies and chronic diseases such as obesity with modest investments that can be repaid in reduction of sick days and accidents.
A better diet also improves your mental health. A four-year study of 10,000 people by scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Clinic of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain revealed that people who eat a diet rich in the classic ingredients consumed in Mediterranean countries – vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish – are less likely to develop depression.
The message is clear. A mind made sluggish by a high-carb lunch washed down with sugary drinks will make more mistakes, have lower output and less innovation. Facilities managers and those that supply them are in an unique position to make a positive contribution to a company’s fitness to compete.
The Mood Food Forum on 22 March is there to explore this question: examining the science of nutrition and productivity, of food and behaviour.
- Jessica Colling, Product Director, vielife
- Matt Dawson MBE – Sportsman, Writer & Broadcaster, courtesy of Sodexo
- Dr Sue Gatenby – Nutrition Director Europe Pepsico International
- Richard Neal – Director, Lancing Press
- Professor John Stein -Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford
- Amanda Ursell – Nutritionist, Times Journalist and regular contributor to the BBC courtesy of CH&Co.
- Felicity Yardy – The Juice Master Blender Innocent