For the purposes of this article what I mean by nutrition is the energy and vitality obtained from a healthy diet.
As an enthusiastic person you want to work to the best of your ability, thus improving your performance and reducing low productivity. The great news is that improving performance through your fuel is moving into your hands.
How your workforce is fuelling itself will have a massive impact on overall organisation performance. Imagine a competent sales person feeling sluggish after a massive bowl of pasta leaves the office to meet a key client. Their energy level for the meeting is low as they are too full and the initial boost of energy has worn off.
Let’s say your purchasing manager schedules an important meeting with a potential key supplier prior to lunch. They may be unlikely to identify a key opportunity or to avoid it deliberately as to trash out the detail would further delay satisfying their growing hunger.
You know the saying, “rubbish in, rubbish out”. Well, it started out as GIGO – garbage in garbage out, in computer-speak, meaning the reports available as output depended totally on the quality of the data input.
And speaking of garbage in a fascinating study from Cornell University in the USA shows workers ate an average of 7.7 sweets each day when the chocolates were in clear containers on their desks; 4.6 when in opaque containers on the desk; 5.6 when in clear jars six feet away; and 3.1 when in opaque jars six feet away.
So the issue is two-fold. Is your company set-up in a way to firstly make healthy decisions available for your employees and secondly set up to make it easier for them to choose the healthy alternative? With education and a health culture developed within the organisation the sales person quoted above would have been more likely to choose a less filling and more prolonged energy source like a tuna, olive and capers salad with cherry tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.
So what can affect employee performance?
It’s not always clear but one thing is for sure that when employees feel their employers take their health and wellness seriously then their morale will benefit.
This can be done by simple measures like healthy options on the lunch menu. Or a culture where people don’t feel guilty leaving their desk every 90 minutes for a 5-minute stroll to clear their head (the same time it takes for another colleague to have a cigarette or coffee break).
Rather than becoming a mind-reader the employer needs to engage with the employee and tease out how employees could feel more valued at work.
The employer can harness the employee’s potential when that employee feels they are working in partnership for twin goals like employee’s health and company performance which contrary to some opinion are not in conflict but are complimentary. Thus inclusivity is key in setting goals and then in the communication thereafter on the various steps and progress achieved in the agreed plan.
Too often we rely on energy sources from coffee and sugar. The truth is, eating the right things during your day and making time for exercise (yes, even a couple of minutes stretching at your desk every 90-minutes) are the true keys to prolonged energy.
In my experience with clients, the causes of sub-par performance can vary from:
- Stress at work as a result of issues with co-workers and line or other management.
- Feeling over whelmed with their workload and turning to food on their return home as a release.
- On days where the workload is not as high pace as normal, they may turn to food in boredom instead of finding motivation in getting admin or future preparation complete.
- Poor education on what is healthy and a lack of willingness to spend time on healthy food preparation.
- Pressures at home/personal issues.
Not all of these will be solved by nutrition advice or improvement but the fact that the employer shows a genuine interest in the overall wellbeing of their workers permeates all levels of performance and attitude. Feeling more energetic and positive doesn’t stop in the workplace but will carry on as an improvement in home and personal life as well.
I have run a 12-week ‘you lose charity wins’ weight loss challenge with 3 clients. They are all very busy workers. Between them they lost 40kg over the three months. A specifically tailored and comprehensive nutrition plan was the main factor in this weight loss resulting in fitting into the more comfortable clothes. It improved body shape and composition which has the knock-on benefit of improved confidence and energy levels. See their stories here
Health Coach and Corporate Presenter