The virtues of a healthy diet are instilled upon us since childhood. Nonetheless, the Health Survey for England reported in 2021 that over half of all adults in England are overweight or obese. This impacts businesses too, as poor employee health and wellbeing with regards to diet and exercise on average costs the UK economy over £6 billion per year in lost productivity.
To kickstart employees and see efficiency rise, there are simple changes that can be made in the workplace to encourage healthier eating habits. By understanding the rules, there are practical steps we can help you take to increase your business’ productivity.
What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?
General scientific consensus tells us that the average person should consume 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day. Foods with high fibre content, such as potatoes, breads, and pastas, should be eaten in meals. Protein should be sourced from vegetables like beans, as well as animal products such as eggs. Dairy and non-dairy milks are also sources of protein, in addition to their calcium content.
While small amounts of salt, sugar, and saturated fats are encouraged as occasional treats, the diet of an average British person contains far too many of these. Despite the prevalence of salt and sugar in fast food and junk food, their convenience makes them commonplace in lunches and snacks. The aim should be to reduce the consumption of these foods by encouraging and educating employees on the benefits of healthy eating.
Which Foods Can Hurt Your Productivity?
Productivity is impacted by cognition, which itself is controlled by the release of glucose for energy and the amount of oxygen reaching the brain. Employees whose diets give them a consistent blood sugar level will be more productive than those with less effective eating habits, in essence.
Despite their importance in large meals, foods that release glucose at a slow pace lead to a sharp rise and then ‘crash’ in blood sugar. Pasta, bread, and cereal all share this in common. Therefore, though a large sandwich for lunch may be filling, it will lead to a drop in productivity after the initial release of glucose. Even worse is fast food. Though a cheeseburger and a sugar-sweetened drink may be convenient and tasty, the large fat content requires more energy to digest — meaning less oxygen is reaching the brain for cognition.
In 2021, the Journal of Applied Psychology published findings that suggested even the foods you eat the night before work have an impact on performance. Participants who ate unhealthy foods prior to work were less likely to go above and beyond at work, were less likely to offer help to co-workers, and were more likely to avoid tough workplace situations (or to avoid work altogether).
When we’re hungry and deprived of energy, cognition worsens. Poor decisions due to a slump in brain power then follow, both in terms of work and our next choice in food. These extreme peaks and troughs in blood sugar have a direct impact on employee concentration, engagement, and energy.
How to Use Food to Increase Productivity
The more you know about how diet can impact productivity, the easier it becomes to start making changes. In order to energise a team, there is no simpler place to start than what they’re eating. Many workplaces offer snacks for their employees, or contain a kitchen or canteen. This makes it all the easier to change the eating habits of your employees and watch their efficiency at work increase.
To avoid ebbs and flows in blood sugar, encourage small and consistent snacking. Provide healthy foods in the workplace which lack saturated fats or high sugar content. Snacks which are composed of fruits and nuts are a good place to start — or just offer fresh produce for employees to eat every few hours.
Disincentivise the ordering of fast food to work premises by making it known that fruit and vegetables are a healthier and cheaper option. Ensure that everyone in the workplace feels included in these changes by creating an unofficial ‘office rule’ or as part of a wider employee health and wellbeing campaign. A ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset will be conducive to feelings of teamwork and productivity.
How Can Ripe Increase Your Productivity?
At Ripe, we believe in the power of healthy eating to let businesses excel. We’re a London-wide delivery service of fresh produce, and we’re passionate about shipping seasonal fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, and even dairy and non-dairy milks to workplaces all over the city.
We make sure that the produce we deliver to your workplace is fresh, meaning we don’t let food gather dust in storage for days. With a wide variety of products shipped straight to your office door, and customisable orders for up to 250 people, our mission is to help your business achieve your mission through good food. With an abundance of healthy snacks for employees to enjoy, you’ll notice those boosts in productivity and engagement from the first order. Experience the excitement of fast food delivery with none of the downsides.
Businesses that are aware of how food impacts productivity can use the science to their advantage. Knowing which types of food to avoid, and which ones to encourage employees to eat, is a simple change that can be made tomorrow.
That change is even easier with Ripe, as we’re committed to high standards of produce and delivery. We can take the stress away from incentivising healthier workplace habits by shipping them straight to your door.
For more information, visit our shop page to start eating and working better.