No ‘magic bullet’ to solving workplace wellbeing
A nutrition expert has stressed that wellbeing is increasingly becoming the responsibility of the corporates and how they look after their people, and organisations that ignore the importance of healthy eating in the workplace “do so at their peril”.
Co-founder of Nutrition Bites, Catherine Attfield has been a nutritionist for 14 years having also worked in the corporate sector and academic field. Speaking in the Workplace Wellbeing Theatre at this year’s Safety & Health Expo, Catherine’s session focussed on giving organisations ideas on how to help their employees “burn bright, not out” through good nutrition.
Nutrition Bites specialises in delivering nutrition solutions into organisations of all sizes to support workplace wellbeing.
A rate of interest
Looking to encourage influencers to consider nutrition as part of a wellbeing programme, Catherine highlighted the reasons for it, suggesting that two-thirds of a person’s diet is eaten at work, be it at the desk or in the car: “What they eat is significantly important because it effects their mood, their mental health, their energy levels and their emotional health too. And that’s because our body’s systems are inherently linked – psychologically, physiologically – everything is linked,” she said.
Rather than trying to justify the cost of nutritional initiatives in the workplace, Catherine encouraged the audience to think about it in terms of ‘a rate of interest’. Over the past seven years, she has found that people are increasingly becoming interested in this area and so the importance lies in looking at a willingness to change, to change behaviours.
“If its people are an organisations biggest asset, and the biggest asset they have is their health and wellbeing, it makes good business sense to look after those people well,” said Catherine, who encouraged the audience to take her messages back to their workplace and have a discussion about how nutrition can play a part in what is currently being done around wellbeing.
Educating employees to ‘fuel themselves better’ is key, in order to eradicate the afternoon energy dips, the low moods, improve their mental health and to lower the risk of becoming sick. Improving workplace nutrition is relatively cheap, Catherine suggested, and it’s effective.
Changing behaviours and improving nutrition can be achieved by more than providing free fruit at work. Individual behavioural changes are ineffective unless it becomes habit forming, said Catherine, adding that work within the workplace environment to change the education, the environment, and the information around can effectively change behaviour. Making nutrition a part of a workplace culture is important.
For organisations with a limited budget, Catherine suggested looking at ‘national health days’ that nutrition can support, such as cardiovascular health and the British Health Foundation, and linking an approach to those. Provide consistent, bitesize steps to influence change. Group activities and workshops also work well, every quarter for example, covering different topics like eating to beat stress, moving to meat free, etc. Healthy initiative weeks or days – with topics like ‘know your portion sizes’ or activities around sugar – can encourage people to understand cause and effect. One-to-one sessions with a nutritionist can be beneficial. Whatever initiative a business may choose, their mission should be to move its workforce from ‘mindless eating to conscious eating’.