Cecily Batten, Head of Marketing, Express Vending, considers how employers can support better nutrition, even if staff are working remotely
The average British adult consumes a third of their daily calories at work. Considering these findings, employers have a responsibility to encourage good nutrition in the workplace.
Although government advice currently recommends employees work from home, there are still industries where this isn’t possible, and employees continue to work from their usual base with restrictions in place.
Here are five ways to promote healthy nutritional offerings, which can be adapted for remote workers and those back in the office.
Provide free or subsidised healthy food
Offering food perks has been shown to keep employees happy and healthy. In fact, a recent survey revealed 38 percent ranked office food as one of their top office perks, alongside vacation time and professional development. Though offering food at work is an added cost, companies can increase staff productivity and their bottom line by providing it.
However, not every company is able to provide fully or partially subsidised cafeterias and if the cost of giving every employee lunch, or the logistics of cooking and accommodating special dietary needs is outside your budget, start small with coffee and snacks.
You could consider this once a week for example, “breakfast and coffee Fridays.” With only a third of offices giving employees free snacks and drinks, even a simple offering can help you stand out from the crowd.
Traditional vending machines are also a cost-effective solution, and many can be tailored to provide healthy options to employees like water, cereal bars and fruit.
For those that are continuing to work from home, why not consider offering discounts to your employees instead? Working with a third-party supplier, means you could provide employees with discounts from local eateries or catering services, which deliver door-to-door, or you may even be able to organise a delivery service option through your in-house catering provider.
Review in-house catering
Traditionally (pre-COVID), studies showed half of employees never left the office at lunchtime, so it’s essential to offer a wide range of healthy food and vending options if you want to support employee health.
During times of COVID restrictions, it might also be better if staff access refreshments from their workplaces, as it will prevent them from leaving the premises, reducing the risk of infections or further virus spread.
Clearly, food plays an important role in staff output and thankfully, businesses are increasingly starting to take this into consideration and working to integrate healthy food options into their wellness agendas.
If you are thinking of expanding your workplace food offerings, there are various catering options you can offer employees, and these don’t have to be expensive to be successful either.
Micro Markets are a good solution, designed to keep staff well-nourished around the clock, with a range of hot and cold refreshment options provided from the comfort of your own office space or campus.
When picking an in-house caterer, flexibility regarding menu options is key. Any catering professional should have different options that are constantly updated to keep up with current trends. An ideal caterer should be willing to handle special requests such as preparing vegetarian, vegan or kosher meals and happy to work to heightened safety measures following the pandemic.
Provide health workshops
Diet can affect an employee’s performance whether they are working in an office or remotely. Offering employees workshops is a great way to make them aware of what is available to them
Wellness workshops allow businesses to communicate health education in an interactive and engaging way.
Whether your goal is to lower absenteeism, reduce claims on health insurance or decrease smoking, educational workshops can help achieve this. Once your employees have a greater understanding of work initiatives, you can work together to plan actionable goals, maximising the workshop’s effectiveness.
Offering employees workshops from nutrition experts, qualified chefs or fitness specialists will inspire them to cook from scratch, diversify their diet and participate in physical activity.
Wellness workshops show you appreciate staff and care about their well-being. Better still, these types of offerings are available virtually, so whether you are working from home or back in the office, everyone can still benefit.
Don’t just tailor benefits – tailor communications too
Having a host of nutritional benefits to offer employees is a great tool for recruitment and retention, granted employees know about the offerings.
Everyone has unique preferences for receiving information and open, transparent communication is key to encouraging trust among employees.
Companies should build out their engagement strategy by assessing how employees want to be communicated with. The most obvious answer for many modern employees is mobile.
People are on their phones most of the time, so getting company updates on their devices ensures they’re receiving your communication on the right platform.
You’ll need multiple ‘touchpoints’ to communicate your offerings and for older employees, this might include more traditional touchpoints like formal company talks (which can be done virtually if required) or booklets.
You will need to communicate how you are planning to make these nutrition benefits safe too and how they comply with the Government’s recommended COVID-19 guidelines. After all, if people don’t know there are safety measures in place, they will still be hesitant to use new offerings.
Show employees offerings are still safe
As mentioned above, it seems COVID-19 is not going anywhere soon, so businesses providing in-house catering should consider a more long-term approach to enhance the safety of in-house catering.
- In-house facilities can be adapted to ensure they are COVID-19 compliant, as businesses start to reopen post-lockdown. For example, suppliers now provide new security features including Perspex screens and social distancing floor stickers.
- Touch-free product scanning and payments are now available using a new smartphone app, one-way systems control the flow of traffic and hygienic touch-free hand wash stations can be distributed in accessible areas.
- Creating a one-way flow of traffic helps to control social distancing measures in any communal space, and individually packaged food and drink give staff peace of mind any items purchased will not be contaminated.
- Touch-free coffee machines are becoming increasingly popular too. These reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19, without the need to compromise on your site’s hot drinks facilities.
The workplace has the potential to enable employees to make healthy choices every day in effective and achievable ways, regardless of whether we remain working from home for the foreseeable future, or if your employees are returning to their traditional workplaces.
If businesses continue to communicate these offerings and enhanced safety measures widely to employees, we can successfully promote better nutrition in the workplace.