Getting the best out of your employees incorporates a wide range of factors from ensuring they have the right tools for the job, to making sure they’re happy and healthy when at work. As emphasis shifts to focus on a more holistic approach, food and catering has firmly established itself as one of the key foundations of a productive and successful workforce.
So what role does food and drink play in the effectiveness of a workforce and how can managers ensure they are providing staff with the best fuel for productive working?
Workplace productivity is a central talking point at the moment with recent FT research suggesting that productivity is flatlining in the UK. Food goes a long way to ensuring staff are operating at their peak performance, so it makes sense that a well nourished workforce will be a more productive one.
We’ve all faced the post lunch slump and the effects certain foods can have on our mood and energy levels, so it’s important to consider the foods you consume and how they impact you as an individual. It’s no secret that what you put into your body has an impact on what you get out of it. As such, it’s important to pay close attention to what you eat when you’re trying to coax the best possible performance out of your mind and body.
Eating too much of any food group will make you feel tired and sluggish, combine that with the body’s natural circadian rhythm and that helps to explain the post lunch dip in energy levels. The key is to eat until you feel satisfied, take time to enjoy your food and when you are full, stop. Perhaps, save the rest of your food until later on. Also including lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and pulses will ensure you are maxing out vitamins and minerals. Lean protein will help keep you full as will foods containing fibre such as chickpeas, beans, fresh veg and whole grains.
Another great tip that will help you beat the hunger pangs is to ensure you never get to that point of being extremely hungry. Snacking little and often can work as it ensures your food choices are considered. Things like bananas, small portions of nuts (15-20g), Greek yoghurt or corn cakes with sliced tomatoes are all great sources of fibre and protein without overloading on the calories.
As well as the productivity element, food provides us with much needed health boosts and helps to repair the wear and tear that comes with modern life. By looking at the work lives of their staff, companies can create and tailor food services to match the needs of its teams more effectively.
At the foundation of our own catering offering for example is the ‘Restore’ nutritional programme, designed to look after employee wellbeing and help bodies deal with the impact of city dwelling. The pressures of commuting, queuing, PC working, pollution and lack of daylight can result in the body feeling excess stress, fatigue and lack of concentration. As such, our menu range is designed to provide the body with as many vitamins and minerals, lean protein, fibre and essential fats to support overall health, wellbeing and energy levels.
We also run a communications programme that provides recommended eating and drinking habits during the day. This is complemented with all the nutritional data of each food and drink item and to help staff make informed choices, we offer all our snacks in bite size portions so that employees have an indulgent treat in a smaller form.
Good wellbeing starts with the right fuel for your body and mind but doesn’t end there. As well as all the health benefits of great food, there are also a number of unintentional advantages that come with enjoying a good meal.
We all know that eating makes us feel good, but eating well isn’t limited purely to your choice of ingredients and can be very dependent on a number of other factors. The environment you chose to dine in for example, can have either a positive or negative effects on your wellbeing. Organisations therefore shouldn’t overlook this key part of the dining experience and should make an effort to ensure the eating atmosphere is one that promotes relaxation, calmness and a separation from business matters.
As well as the need to intake nutrients, eating food provides us a moment’s respite and a chance to switch off for a little while before getting back to work. As a hugely social act, eating also offers one of the best ways for employees to engage with each other and build relationships, something which shouldn’t be overlooked.
When particularly busy, individuals can easily slip into unhealthy habits so its important to have plans in place to communicate the importance of taking a break and utilising food and drink in the right way. Eating at our desks for example, can have a seriously detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing as it denies an employee their time to refresh the mind while simultaneously blurring the lines between work and a break.
Make dining more of an experience by encouraging social eating, offering a range of cuisines and separating work and recreation and you’ll find staff not only feel much happier, they’ll also be much more effective when they are working.
by Alistair Day, executive chef at catering company Bennett Hay
- Stay hydrated – possibly something that’s in the spotlight more than ever and with good reason. The best method of understanding this is to check the colour of your pee, it’s that simple and should be a pale straw colour. Remember you get around 20% of your daily water intake from food, so diet is just as important as fluid intake. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, at your desk, in your car and in your laptop bag (you can even purchase flat bottles now so they fit in nice and snug).
- Sleep – Lack of sleep used to be hero type statement but the emerging research behind getting a decent 8 hours is undeniable. When it comes to food, inconsistent or inadequate sleep can increase your daily calorie consumption by 380 per day. Perspective wise, that’s about 5 extra digestive biscuits per day without you even realising. Inevitably it can lead to weight gain. Aim for 8 hours of quality sleep, don’t use your phone before bed, and keep to a routine.
- Eat a diet with lots of colour. This indicates variety. The more variety of foods you consume, the higher level of different vitamins and minerals your body is getting. Aim to make half of each meal fruit and/or vegetables (this includes pulses and legumes), the rest with lean protein and wholegrain carbs.