If you own or manage a business, keeping your employees healthy can be in your best interest by cutting back on sick days and improving productivity. Because most employees spend the bulk of their days at the workplace, one of the best ways to encourage healthy behavior is to foster good eating habits. To encourage your employees to eat right at work, here are eight tips you can employ today.
Make Healthy Fare Available Throughout Shifts
If employees are stuck eating onsite because there are no viable alternatives nearby, do your best to make the options healthy. In larger institutions, like hospitals and schools, make sure the cafeteria or sandwich shop stays open throughout at least part of all work shifts.
While it may be impossible to totally eliminate less-than-desirable foods, such as french fries and donuts, at least ensure that there are healthier alternatives alongside them. Baked sweet potato fries and oatmeal muffins, for example, are still delicious but aren’t empty calories.
Consider purchasing vending machines for your workplace, especially if you don’t have a formal food prep service. You can even find vending machine parts to fix your temperamental machines. You can fill them with healthy choices like:
- nuts and single-serving nut butters
- salads or veggie sticks
- hard boiled eggs
- instant oatmeal
- protein bars
Be sure to offer plenty of water, whether from the vending area or a water service. You can also stock the workplace with herbal tea and smoothies in place of soda.
Give Employees Adequate Time for Breaks and Meals
No matter how healthy the food options, if employees don’t have enough time to eat, they won’t be practicing healthy eating. Make sure employees get to actually take their breaks and lunchtimes, and don’t interrupt with work questions when they are eating.
Offer a Place to Eat Besides the Workspace
Eating at one’s desk isn’t really a healthy choice either. Try to set up a dedicated eating area, even if you need to clear the conference room for a few hours midday. A true lunch/break room is ideal. Ask employees to tidy up after themselves as they go, but leave big cleaning to the custodial staff. Many workers will simply avoid the lunch room altogether if they get roped into a rotating schedule of cleaning up huge messes from other people.
Install a Kitchen or Food Storage/Prep Area
If you have the space, a kitchen or food prep area with plenty of storage is a great way to let employees make healthier food decisions. They can bring leftovers from home or even cook fresh at work. Give each employee a cubby or cabinet for their nonperishables and dishes, so they can always have smart choices available.
Encourage Healthy Takeout and Delivery
Does your workplace indulge in a lot of takeout and delivery? Why not put together a binder of the best alternatives for employees when it comes to dining? Collect menus from all the healthy restaurants nearby, and put them in plastic sheet protectors. Keep a bin with coupons next to it to make ordering nutritious lunch or dinner even easier. If you have an in-house messenger service, offer to use it to pick up food, so employees spend their full lunch breaks eating, not driving to and fro.
Institute a Workplace Nutrition Program
Not every employee may know how to eat nutritiously. You could institute a formal nutrition program for these workers to help them get on the right track. This involves offering eating education, and it works best if you also implement other healthy initiatives such as exercise classes and free health screenings for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
If you offer food at work, let employees know what they are eating. Label the cafeteria food with calories per serving and the ingredients. Have shelves in your vending machines dedicated to "less-than-100-calorie snacks" and the like.
Sponsor Fun Healthy Eating Activities
You can make healthy eating at the workplace fun too. Initiate a lunch club, where you try a new restaurant each month, or a cooking club to share recipes. You could even bring a guest chef for a surprise cooking class or sponsor an employee cook-off featuring a healthy entree like salad or an otherwise fattening recipe turned "lite."
Bring in Healthy Options
As the boss, you should be leading by example. When you bring food to the office, is it junk or something with nutritional value? Instead of putting out a plate of Danishes at meetings, why not offer a better alternative like gourmet cereal bars or gluten-free muffins? When you cater lunch, strive to have healthy options, like fish, chicken and vegetarian items, instead of fried foods or highly processed items.
You probably pay a lot of attention to workplace safety and security, and your employees’ dietary health should be just as important. Try some of the tips above, and you may be surprised at how happy and productive your employees become.