Eating for high performance
Workplace policies to promote a “culture of good health”
should be at the forefront of every EAP practitioner’s schedule. Whilst it can
be a touchy subject to address weight and dietary concerns with employees, providing
an environment where healthy nutrition is not only offered, but also encouraged
can result in dramatic increases in productivity as well as positive outcomes
for employees lives outside of work.
There are three key risk factors, when it comes to healthy
lifestyles in the work place obesity, drug use and mental health. In this piece
however we will focus on the nutritional and exercise elements.
For each of these issues there are implementations that can
improve the lives of employees and the aforementioned factors should be
Obesity is of far greater concern in office related, or generally sedentary jobs, this can go even further to general health, minimum cardio needs and nutrition availability being addressed. It was estimated that obesity costs US companies $147billion per annum, this is due to higher medical insurance costs, extra sick days and even premature death. For the nutrition side of things, this can be relatively simple, from stocking healthy vending machines and encouraging appropriately healthy foods by making them more readily available on site and limiting junk purchase opportunities. Clear markings of nutritional value have also been shown to be effective.
The CDC outlines several practical policies which can be implemented and an action plan template developed by Center TRT can be found here. As for the cardio element, some countries such as the UK have begun cycle to work schemes, where employers encourage and subsidise the purchase of bicycles. Other options include walking groups, and other group physical activity being offered.
Another option to improve overall employee nutrition is to offer nutritional counseling. The CDC recommends that employers pay specific attention to those with lipid disorders, or other chronic health conditions. This counseling should be used in conjunction with HRA’s (health risk appraisals) and self monitoring should be encouraged.
Mental Health does also play a role in nutrition, should mental health present an issue towards proper nutrition then again counseling is recommneded.
Lastly along with a poor diet there are several environmental factors that could require dietary supplementation, particularly low vitamin D availability can cause several issues and nearly half of the US population is deficient. Consider offering foods rich in this vitamin if you’re workplace does not have any windows or educating the employees on the necessity of vitamin D supplementation.