How Nutrition Impacts Employees’ Brainpower — and Your Business
November 11, 2014 / Employee Engagement
To stay on top of it all, they’re putting their well-being on the back burner, skipping exercise, cutting back on sleep, and looking to super-sized, triple-shot espresso drinks and fast-food drive-thrus for the extra oomph they need.
But when mealtime becomes more about convenience and less about nutrition, it’s not just employees’ waistlines that take a toll. If you’ve ever had one too many helpings at Thanksgiving dinner, you probably know first-hand that poor eating leaves you feeling less than your best.
What’s this got to do with business? A whole lot, actually. An unhealthy diet doesn’t only drive up the number employees’ see on their scales – it also kills their energy and cognition. In fact, poor nutrition stemming from eating too much sugar and fat or too many carbs can actually cause cognitive impairment.
With nearly 70 percent of employees saying their healthy habits – like eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly – impact their ability to focus, nutrition is key to employees’ performance and your company’s success. You may not be able to pack employees a healthy lunch every morning, but you can give them a hand in making more nutritious choices with these three tips.
Help employees perform at their peak. People who kept a food diary as part of one study six days a week lost nearly twice as much as those who tracked one day or less, research shows. Try including a nutritional component as part of your employee health and well-being program – and offer up a reward for those who regularly maintain a diary or hit their weight-loss goals.
Encourage organized lunching. While it’s all too easy for busy employees to fall trap to the “working lunch,” mindless munching at their desk or workstation while tackling other projects isn’t paying them any favors. In fact, it encourages overeating and can lead to other concerns around food safety, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told WebMD. It also prevents employees from getting up and out of the office, meaning they miss out on the opportunity for a bit of exercise, the spokesperson added. Set the example by scheduling lunch away from your desk, and encourage your employees to do the same.
Out of sight, out of mind. Help make employees’ healthy choices easier by ditching the candy, cookies and other desserts from the office. Instead, replace the sweet snacks with fresh fruit and vegetables. While you’re at it, take a second look at the sweet suspects deemed “healthy” in your vending machine, too. (I’m looking at you, strawberry frosted “toaster cakes.”)
At the end of the day, you’re not the one planning out employees’ menus, but you can help them take steps towards better nutrition. And properly fueled employees come to work sharper, with the cognitive abilities and energy they need to focus on handling even the most complicated tasks.
Want to learn more about how healthy habits impact employees’ focus at work? Download our latest survey report, “Driven by Distractions: Why Employees’ Focus is Waning at Work & What You Can Do About it.”
Kaite Bonneville is Marketing Communications Manager at Virgin Pulse, where she leverages her personal passion for health and happiness to create compelling content about employee well-being and engagement. Outside of the office, Kaite spends her time mentoring a high school student, and recently trained for and completed her first half marathon.