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Healthy Food Options in the Workplace

Healthy Salad

In an article titled Employee Health On and Off the Job, we explored all of the external factors affecting health and fitness that employees are exposed to in both the workplace and their personal lives. If you read the article, you may recall the studies we referenced that address these factors that can affect the health of your employees.

In that article, we concluded that employers worldwide are beginning to shift the way they approach addressing nutritional problems among their employees. For example, we explored the nutritional programs that employee maintenance programs typically provide to a given workforce.

When employees are on the job, a lunch break is typically spent trying to accomplish a few things. First, employees see the lunch break as valuable personal time where they can take a breather from the day to day tasks their job requires. They also likely attempt to include entertainment time, such as watching a video, in an attempt to temporarily disconnect from the workplace. Finally, there is also the matter of actually providing their bodies with fuel for the remainder of the day.

How many workplaces are you aware of that house vending machines or snack windows, which are typically stocked with food of sub-par nutritional value? Maybe your workplace is one of them?

“Obesity puts a strain on the obese employee’s general health, such as heart and respiration, and on the employee’s medical benefits claims and compensation, due to missed work,” says employment law attorney John Robinson.

Employers today have an opportunity to facilitate improvements in employees’ health by providing healthy food options and engaging them in education about why it is important to eat well. Providing cheap, unhealthy foods in vending machines only support the poor habits that employees may already have developed.

Why Provide Healthy Foods at Work?

The greatest objection to the concept of providing healthy snacks for the workforce is cost; providing any food for a large group of people could get expensive, especially healthy food. However, that claim significantly overlooks the benefits that are to be gained by the employer.

Because obesity is such a limiting factor in an employee’s overall health, the integration of healthy foods can take your unhealthy workforce down a different path. Even simply reducing absenteeism will significantly improve employee productivity and the company’s profitability.

“If someone is unable to make it to work every day for 90 days, no matter what the reason, they are not as valuable to your firm as someone who shows up every day,” Robinson adds.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your employees are fit to perform job duties without potentially suffering from a work-related injury at the expense of the company. Unfortunately, an employee’s choices off the job can affect their abilities on the job; this usually also results in lost profitability for the company.

“We wouldn’t take someone’s word that they could drive a school bus safely, we’d expect them to pass a test,” says Robinson. “The same goes for applicants being able to safely complete their job duties.”

Robinson’s claims reflect the idea that employers should be able to hold their employees accountable for being fit to perform job duties safely and efficiently. However, in order to do this effectively, employers need to have an idea of where their employees stand; introducing healthy food options and proper education to the workforce is a good place to start.

Interested in taking your understanding of the overall health of your workforce to the next level? Visit the InjuryFree Health & Safety Challenges page to learn how you can use friendly competition among your workforce to (1) gain a better understanding of the overall health of your employees on an individual level and as a whole, and (2) effectively facilitate change and encourage healthy habits among your employees by educating them on the benefits of improving their health.

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