Whether you’re boosting morale or keeping your employees energised, providing healthy food options, or even just promoting healthy eating, can boost productivity.

Too much of a good thing

Google is a standard-bearer for staff perks; breakout spaces, parlour games, relaxation rooms and, of course, canteens: the search giant has it all.

Its New York office is even rumoured to have an unwritten rule that no employee should ever be more than 150 feet from food, as they believe nutrition to be a sure-fire way to keep productivity high.

However, after staff started to complain about the weight they were putting on, Jennifer Kurkoski, head of Google’s ‘people analytics’, completely transformed the food options, hiding sweets like M&Ms in opaque jars while healthier options were out in the open.

The changes were immediate; according to Kurkoski, the amount of calories from sweets that staff consumed dropped from 29% to 20%.

The healthy option 

If your company does offer free food to its staff, providing them with healthy options shouldn’t just be a responsibility; it should be a strategy.

Public Health England has estimated that, for an organisation with around 1000 employees, obesity can equate to £126,000 in lost productivity every year, mainly due to absenteeism brought on by ill health.

To help businesses provide employees with healthier options, Public Health England has published a Healthier and More Sustainable Catering toolkit.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle

But don’t stop at the food you provide – you should also be encouraging employees to be healthy in all aspects of their life.

A recent survey by VitalityHealth discovered that promoting healthy living could reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.

“We found companies with the most supportive cultures had the lowest productivity losses,” observed Shaun Subel, the director of strategy at VitalityHealth. “In fact, those with the strongest health and well-being cultures had a 45% lower cost of lost productivity compared with those that had the worst cultures.

“The more a company invests in health provision and promotion, the healthier the employees perceive themselves to be and, in most cases, the healthier they are. The healthier they are, the more productive they are,” he added.

Finding the balance

However, although promoting healthy living can help reduce absenteeism, improve morale, and boost productivity in the workplace, it should never replace your employees’ basic requirements.

A study by research company Gallup concluded that “even the most extravagant perks will be little more than window dressing”.

So, rather than offering free, healthy snacks and nothing else, use healthy eating to supplement your benefits strategy, thereby encouraging a stronger company culture.

More businesses may look to implement self-powering gym workstations in the office environment.

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