We’ve all seen it happen: People get trapped in the web of monotonous, boring, unhealthy lunches at work. They don’t leave enough time to prepare something healthy at home. Sometimes, they opt for a bag of chips and a can of soda right out of the break room vending machines. Other times, they splurge on something greasy or fried from the fast food place down the block. Some days, they’re just tired of the same old thing, so they skip lunch altogether. A few hours later, their energy and focus are gone. Unable to be productive, they’re left watching the clock, waiting for the end of the workday.
Now is the time to reclaim the most important hour in the day.
As a smart and successful employer, it’s your responsibility to encourage your employees to make healthier choices at lunchtime. The more employers care about the health, well-being, and productive stamina of company employees, the better off the company will be. If your company takes a vested interest in employee health by implementing a healthy food program at work, you will be rewarded with fewer sick days, fewer dollars spent on healthcare coverage, higher productivity, and more positivity within the workplace overall.
Below are eight ideas that will help you implement a healthy food program within your company:
1. Do some research.
Educate yourself on nutritional guidelines and programs so you understand how to help your employees make healthier choices. Recognize that a healthy lunch is not one-size-fits-all. The ideal healthy lunch for the office would be one that satisfies your hunger, makes you happy, and provides you with enough energy for the rest of the workday. The components of this meal would depend on your lifestyle and diet, but they should include plenty of protein and vegetables, as well as water for hydration. For those who work on the go, omitting a bag of chips, a cookie, sandwich bread, a can of soda, or processed deli meat can make a huge difference over the course of a year.
2. Connect with your peers.
Talking to other employers will help you understand how they encourage healthy lifestyles within their workplaces. You’ll likely get feedback that varies from paying for gym memberships to supplying workers with healthy snacks. You might find inspiration in some of their tactics.
3. Make the program (and the incentives) a priority.
The more you can empower your employees through opportunities, the more willing they will be to participate. Even though eating healthy often seems to be more expensive, you will make up for it when your employees are more productive. Be sure to budget enough money to keep the program fresh and exciting for employees.
4. Lead by example.
The best place to start these changes is right in your office. For board meetings, office parties, and free lunch days, select menus that reflect your values as an organization. But don’t skimp by ordering a simple fruit-and-veggie tray. Instead, select diverse, healthy options that cover all diets and lifestyles. Look into companies like Cater2.me, which currently serves San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago; they allow companies to order food with a high level of specificity from pre-approved local vendors and restaurants and then deliver it straight to your office.
5. Create a healthier workspace.
Support the movement by eliminating unhealthy options from your office. Your break room should not have a soda machine. Replace this with company-provided bottled or filtered water that employees can take back to their desks with them. Candy bars and snack cakes found in most vending machines should be replaced with items that have undergone little or no processing.
6. Set up a reward program.
Establishing goals and incentives is a great way to get your employees on board with the changes you want them to make. Get everyone’s input on personal or group goals and what sort of rewards they would most appreciate. For example, you could have all employees keep a food journal and have a dietician judge who has consistently eaten the healthiest meals during the month. Rewards could include a work-from-home day or a company-paid gym membership.
7. Arrange local deals and discounts.
Contact local businesses and restaurants to set up discounts for your employees on company-approved healthy items and dishes. By steering employees in the right direction and helping to take the strain off their pocketbooks, you will be giving them the push they need to make better choices and great changes.
8. Bring in professionals.
Hire a nutritionist to visit the office on a regular basis and host classes to educate employees on topics such as healthy food alternatives, exercise, and meal planning. You could also invite a chef to come to your workplace and share recipes for healthy meals and snacks to enjoy both at work and at home.
As an employer, promoting a healthy lifestyle in the office tells your employees that you care. If your employees believe that you are invested in their well-being, they will become more invested in their work and your company. Begin a healthy food program within your company, and take back the most important hour of the day.
Blake Beshore is the co-founder of Tatroux LLC, a growing fine arts publishing company that focuses on the obsessive nature of those working in diverse fields of the creative arts. Beshore’s most recent book, “Notes from A Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession,” has received national acclaim for the two-volume re-envisioning of the cookbook. Connect with Blake on Twitter and Google+.
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