We know nutrition is an integral part of any employee wellness program. Employees who eat well are sick less often, have more energy to get through their day and report better sleep. With six of the ten leading causes of death directly related to nutrition, effective wellness programs should include strategies to educate employees on making healthier food choices to prevent or treat chronic disease. While your workforce may be working remotely, a high-touch, high-tech wellness program with a strong nutrition focus can help employees make healthy food choices, no matter where they are working.
When employees feel that you genuinely value their wellness, they will be more productive and engaged at work. As a result, investing in your employees’ health will not only improve their well-being and productivity, but may lower healthcare costs for your company. Showing your employees you care about their wellness will go a long way.
Consider these four building blocks when designing a strategic nutrition initiative to support your employees:
Nutrition Education Seminars
Your employees can’t know what they don’t know. Eating properly affects employee performance, regardless of whether your workforce is onsite or remote. Optimal nutrition is key to helping your employees feel physically and mentally well. Not only is it essential to preventing chronic disease, it is also a necessary component of building and supporting a strong immune system, which is crucial with the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season upon us. To stay well, employees should have access to evidence-based information presented by Registered Dietitians, not just nutrition ‘experts’ or ‘influencers.’ Fortunately, seminars can still be offered through online platforms. Make the sessions fun via polls (which meal contains more phytonutrients?) or quizzes (number the sodium content of these five foods from highest to lowest), etc.
Some good topics to consider:
Foods for Your Mood
Eat Whole to Stay Well
Cook This, Not That
In addition to nutrition-focused educational seminars, cooking demos are a great way to teach your employees how to cook healthy meals or snacks. Many people are visual learners, and cooking demos can inspire your employees to experiment and eat new foods. This is also a great way for employees to learn about the benefits of different foods and to introduce various methods to prepare healthy foods, including meal prepping tips and quick, simple meals the whole family will enjoy. Cooking demos can be offered virtually so your employees can enjoy them from wherever they are – and their whole family can join in the fun.
Consider offering an Eating Through the Seasons cooking demo series featuring foods and recipes that are local and in season. You could even send a basket of fresh fruit or vegetables to one or two lucky winners who attend all four of the demos.
Healthy Food Options
More than one-third of employees rank office food as one of their top three workplace perks. Having a healthy food environment in the office makes it easier for your employees to make healthy choices at work, which can translate to making healthier choices at home. For the organizations that are remote, consider offering discounts for healthy foods or gift cards to local, healthy lunch spots. Although offering healthy foods in the workplace is an added expense, it can improve employee health, productivity and morale.
Several companies now offer less than perfect produce or healthy snack deliveries. Of course, gift cards are always a crowd pleaser and can be used as a pick-me-up for a morale boost.
One-on-One Health Coaching
Each employee is going to have unique nutrition and wellness goals driven by their personal history and experiences. Some people are intrinsically motivated to engage in healthy behaviors such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, but others need more accountability and guidance. This is where a health coach can provide benefits. A health coach can help employees understand their health risks, lifestyle factors that affect those risks, offer tools and skills needed to make healthier food and lifestyle changes, and provide accountability for meeting their goals. We all hear “I know what I need to do. I just don’t do it.” Coaches help employees overcome obstacles and realize their potential.
Health coaches can also help make other resources more useful as s/he can direct an employee to an EAP, a financial advisor or a scheduled physician visit, as needed. Most organizations see an uptick in available resources when a health coach is brought into the mix, which is good. Prevention is key in any wellness initiative.
By creating a work culture that fosters wellness, your employees will be more engaged, productive and satisfied with their job, and will experience less burnout. Your employees are your most important asset, and if they are healthy, your organization will thrive. Incorporate these building blocks of nutrition into your wellness program to prioritize your employees’ health today.
For additional resources, the Wellness Workdays website offers more information on worksite wellness programs. You can also read about a variety of well-being topics on our Wellness Blog and visit our Covid-19 Resource Center.