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How To Create A More Engaging, Happy & Sick Free Work Place

Free Lunch at work scheme

There’s a few golden areas of business which are employers strive for. Arguably the most important areas to get right are employee morale, productivity and the reduction of days out of the office due to sickness. Let’s call these the golden three.

It’s quite simple really. If you have a healthy, engaged, passionate and productive workforce then if the strategy is right the business is going to flourish. But do companies have this? Unfortunately not.

The Daily Mail ran a great piece which suggested over 42% of people surveyed admitted they gained weight in a year while working in an office job. An incredible statistics but one which doesn’t surprise given the typical diets of colleagues I have worked with in the past. The difficulty with the office environment is it’s easy to snack and it’s challenging to sometimes get away from the desk. Furthermore some of the large offices I have worked in previously have thrown further fuel onto the fire by having subsidised canteen food which usually consisted of chips and vending machines galore around the building.

It was difficult to escape the office diet.

But what if you could invest into the diet of your workforce to improve productivity, employee morale and reduce sick days? That combination alone could make the introduction of free snacks and lunches a worthwhile exercise. But is all this financially viable? Of course it is. Companies need to look past this as an expense and more as a investment into the health and well being of employees.

Science Behind productivity in the brain:

Business insider ran a great piece on 16 foods you should eat to boost productivity also known as ‘brain food’.

The World Health Organisation state that you can boost the power of the brain by 20% by merely eating the right foods. Diet, health and sleep have the potential to alter the brain’s health and mental function. This in itself raises the question as to why companies wouldn’t look to increase this brain power be assisting diets within the office.

Improving cognitive abilities of the workforce is something which companies strive for. Countless productivity tips are implemented by companies yet diet is rarely controlled and refined yet its arguably one of the most potent ways to improve productivity.

According to research conducted by the Health Enhancement Research organisation workers who ate healthy meals and exercises on a regular basis had better job performance and lower absenteeism (Source: News.com.au)

So all the research points towards an increase in productivity when eating the right foods. How about employee morale?

Healthy food makes you happy:

Morale of employee’s can stem from anything. Job satisfaction, home life and how they feel about themselves. Although some of these are out of the hands of businesses the famous saying ‘you are what you eat’ can ring true here.

Eating a well balanced diet can help your morale and that of your employees. Those eating well and engaging in regular exercise are more likely to be happier, engaged employees.

Depression can occur regularly in business due to the stress of a demanding job role. A number of studies suggest that removing trans fats found in processed foods (commonly found in office restaurants) can significantly lower the risk of depression. Furthermore these studies were backed up by the Harvard school of Public health who found that those whose diets contained healthier fats as opposed to trans fats were significantly less likely to suffer from depression. Drew Ramsey M.D looks at this in more detail through his Eat for happiness: 5 Rules post on the Huffington Post website.

Businesses can work with their food offerings and make the servings of a healthier variety. Salmon instead of fish in batter/bread crumbs. Sweet potato jacket instead of fries. Small changes based on the ‘free dining’ notion can really spark happiness and fulfilment within the workplace. Those eating healthier are more likely to be a joy within the workplace. Unhealthy food has an impact on your body which in turn can quickly make an individual unhappy.

Healthy food reduces sickness:

Sick days cost businesses hours of productive time. An increase in sick days equates to less work delivered which typically leads to the business performing below what it could. Not only this but it can hamper employee to employee morale if one member of the team has regular sick days whereas the others are healthy and rarely miss working days.

There are  numerous steps you can take to reduce employee sickness. Offering free lunches of the healthy variety can be one of these which helps you safeguard your employees.

Unhealthy eating and inactivity contribute to  580,000 deaths each year according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CDC (Centers for Disease control and Prevention) suggest that One third of US adults are obese with similar ever increasing numbers across the globe. The health bill for this in 2008 was approximately $147 billion.  That’s for obesity alone and nothing else.

If companies can change this obesity epidemic which is growing and has been since 1990 then sickness days can therefore be reduced. Although organisations cannot control employees they can use free food and lunches as a way to educate their workforce and drive change within their part of the world.

The reduction in sickness could significantly help the productivity of the company and lower the amount of time wasted by employee’s out of the office due to illness.

The Cost:

The daily mail suggests that the average lunch cost is £7.80 (Including drinks) which seems like an extremely high figure. To produce this on mass would be significantly cheaper. Let’s take a figure of £5 as an average cost per employee per day for lunch and snacks. That’s around $8 in USD.

Yearly cost per employee: £1,300

Companies could add this as an employee incentive/bonus which can also help with recruitment. Seeing a job advert offering free lunches and snacks is a fantastic draw for any potential applicant.  The company can also tweak the salary accordingly to swallow the cost of offering free lunches. One would argue this wouldn’t be necessary given the potential increase in productivity, happiness and reduction in sick days.

How this could be implemented?

Most organisations are scared of change. This rigid approach to business can turn employee’s away especially those from Generation Y. Implementing a free healthy lunches and snacks policy would be relatively straight forward. For larger organisations the catering providers can be briefed on the new approach and menu’s can be created. Healthy snacks are equally easy to create and can be sourced from a number of places.

For smaller scale offices with independant cooking facilities food deliveries could be scheduled twice weekly. Online shopping for groceries is readily available within the UK and recurring orders can be placed. Delivery costs are minimal too (free over a specific spend).

Fridges can then be stocked with pre arranged healthy snacks and meals for employee’s which are delivered on a bi weekly basis. This type of process is also extremely exciting for employee’s especially if they are currently not provided lunches. I would be surprised if anybody rejected free lunches. Some individuals also need that direction to get themselves eating healthy. This provides as such.

Summary

Free lunches especially those of a healthy kind can bring a number of benefits to your employee’s. Not only this but they can also be a great recruitment tool and are typically tax deductible additions to ones business. Taking into account the morale hike, potential improved productivity and the reduction in employee sick days it’s surprising more companies haven’t offered such incentives to their workforce. The stumbling block typically seems to be the implementation phase yet in reality it’s a simple process  and a cultural stride for the organisation.

The office environment is now far more than a place you go to work. Lifestyle changes can make a significant difference to your business and is something which should be seriously considered by organisations across the globe. Educate your employee’s and help them make the right decisions on what they eat and how they look after their health. It will benefit you in the long run.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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