Eat Your Veggies!
An employer is not a parent, and they have no duty to tell you what you must eat. However, as wellness become more important in the workplace, an employer can certainly encourage good eating habits. It’s a strategy that can pay dividends in cheaper employee health care premiums, worker happiness, motivation, and feeling valued as an employee.
That being said, it’s not easy to change what people eat on a regular basis. If employees are craving a pizza and soft drinks, it can be daunting to suggest that they should get a salad and water instead. What can be done, however, is to provide access to a registered dietician, educate employees on how to read food labels, and to not only stock, but discount healthy foods in the cafeteria or vending machines. Companies can go even further by subsidizing gym memberships or offering discounts on wellness programs, DVDs, or books.
Employees who follow a healthy lifestyle should also be empowered to spread their love of good food. Instead of bringing donuts to a meeting, companies can reimburse employees for bringing healthy foods such as a selection of fruit.
An article on Human Resource Executive Online titled, “Food for Thought,” mentions how Angie’s List, a subscription service company based in Indianapolis, goes so far as to have a corporate garden club including plots of land for gardens, a small orchard of apple and pear trees, and even hens for fresh eggs. All this is maintained by employee members of the club who get to share in the harvest. While companies shouldn’t feel they need to go to those lengths in order to get employees to eat healthy, they should have plenty of healthy options available.
In fact, it often just takes a little nudge to make a major difference. Take, for example, Google. The aforementioned article states that they provide smaller plates in the employee cafeteria to reduce portion sizes, use a color-coding system to help employees tell the difference between food that’s healthy versus food that’s less healthy, and they also place items, such as candy, in non-clear containers. Another company caused a major shift in employee wellness by placing soda below bottled water. The result was a “dramatically reduced” consumption of soda.
Companies that use not-so-subtle messages for healthy eating have removed all fried foods from their cafeterias, hired chefs and set up healthy food stations, and even held cooking demonstrations during the afternoon on work days and encouraged employees to attend without fear of being unpaid for the time.
While all of these options are helpful to both the employer and employee in terms of better health, lower health care costs, reduced absenteeism, etc., it’s difficult to completely eliminate bad eating habits by employees. Easy access to fast food restaurants and junk food in the supermarket can sometimes be too tempting to pass up. The trick to changing attitudes is to make small steps toward wellness and provide easy accessibility and plentiful availability. Here’s to your health!