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Why food is so essential to promoting employee wellness

15 Jan 2019

Many employers have realised that the key to retaining talent is by ensuring they provide an environment that is conducive to wellness, and food should be at the core of this strategy.

Professionals working in areas such as software engineering, software development, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence are in short supply. Employers are not only aware of this, they are frequently haunted by the issue at C-suite meetings. Every day, a CTO or CFO will fret over the ‘war’ for tech talent, and the biggest tool in their arsenal is promoting ‘employee wellness’.

Now, employee wellness essentially boils down to the not-so-radical idea that if you take care of employees and are mindful that they have lives outside of work, they will be happier and more productive. In a way, it’s baffling that this is being championed as some new, ‘disruptive’ tool for business leaders as opposed to what it is: just exercising basic decency, a concept that is as old as time and yet is occasionally sorely lacking.

It can’t be denied that happy and productive employees are quicker to remain at a company and recommend that someone else apply to work at said company. There are a variety of perks – lush facilities, flexible working hours, plenty of annual leave days and so on – that can be pushed to achieve this. Yet, arguably, improving wellness through food should be the top priority for a few reasons.

Everyone needs food

Not everyone will care if your place of work has a gym, nor will everyone necessarily avail of the opportunity to work flexibly with any real frequency. Everyone likes annual leave days and the ability to take time off when needed but, again, not everyone is going to avail of it with any real consistency.

However, it’s an irrefutable fact that food is needed to sustain humans. People have differing attitudes to food, but everyone has to eat, and has to eat every day for that matter.

Many people strive to eat more healthily, yet a lack of knowledge, time and (occasionally) cooking skills can hamper that massively. Giving employees varied, healthy options that they can access at work at low (or zero) cost can enable employees to achieve this.

Furthermore, if you’re hoping to encourage your employees to think favourably of their firm, the best way to do so is with a small, daily reminder that will be always playing in the back of their minds. A once-a-year Christmas party will certainly engender gratitude, but a daily reminder that an employee’s welfare matters provides more consistent morale boosts.

Food is essential to concentration

We have previously discussed how eating healthily could be the key to productivity that you’re overlooking. To reiterate, the brain is greedy when it comes to your body’s energy. Despite making up less than 2pc of the body’s weight, it chomps up almost 20pc of your resting metabolic rate.

The brain is demanding because it is rich in nerve cells, or neurons. Glucose is essentially the brain’s only source of energy. The brain requires a constant supply because there’s no way for it to store fuel.

If the brain doesn’t get the fuel it needs, it can’t work properly and people can’t concentrate. Yet it’s not enough for someone to grab a chocolate bar from the vending machine to have with their coffee and press onwards – blood sugar levels need to be kept stable in order to maintain peak concentration.

If you’re not feeding your employees the right food, all the productivity apps in the world will be of little use. Since ensuring that employees concentrate is in the interest of enterprise leaders, it stands to reason that they should provide a variety of delicious, healthy meals for their employees for free.

The brain and the body are connected

You are not merely a brain with a bag of meat attached to it – the mind is very much symbiotically connected to the body. This may seem self-evident, yet it tends to be forgotten sometimes. This connection is one of the central tenets that underpins mindfulness, which has swelled in popularity in the corporate world in recent times.

Yet what has also risen in popularity is the field of ‘nutritional psychiatry’, which specifically studies the connection between mood and food. For example, a whopping 95pc of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. This tract is lined with 100m neurons.

Additionally, studies have emerged proving that there are lower instances of depression in those with diets lower in processed foods and refined sugar. Promising studies have also emerged that show anxiety is reduced when people take probiotics.

The field is still in the early stages, yet it demonstrates that there is a connection between our diets and our welfare. If employers want to keep employees happy and engaged, they should ensure workers are being fed properly.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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