Should Employers Take Responsibility For Their Workforce’s Diet?

employee health
Article contributed by Helen Sanders, chief editor at HealthAmbition.com.

If you work in the foodservice industry, you’re likely familiar with the poor food choices available to staff during lunch breaks. I worked in a restaurant when I was younger and the staff typically received a “family meal.” This meal was prepared by the cooks, specifically for the staff, and it was usually pasta. It was definitely not as fancy as the meals offered to the customers and the expensive meats (like fish) were not included.

If you work in a restaurant today, you are probably offered a family meal, a sandwich of some sort, or even fried versions of excess meats. Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, typically offer their staff a 50% off discount on menu items. While employees are grateful whenever they receive complimentary meals or discounts from their employers, all parties should take employee health into consideration.

Of course, an employee has a choice when it comes to their diet. No one is forcing them to eat the food provided by the establishment they are employed by. They can bring their own food from home or go to another location to eat during their break (if time permits). However, it’s not exactly fair to the staff if employers are consistently offering unhealthy food choices and neither is it good for business.

There are many reasons why employers should start taking responsibility for their workforce’s diet, by adding more vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats and whole grains to their list of meal options. Here are just a few of these convincing reasons:

Increased productivity

When employers sit down with their management team to discuss factors affecting productivity, food is not often at the top of the list. However, it should be taken into consideration.

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A variety of nutritional deficiencies, including anemia, can contribute to reduced workplace output and lethargy. And it’s not just serious deficiencies like anemia that are a problem—just think about how you feel after eating a plate of junk food.

Things like bread and soda often give us a short burst of energy, but this is followed by a burnout. High-fat foods, like burgers, give us longer-lasting energy but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in our brain. When people are feeling tired and worn out, they don’t work as efficiently. This causes the business to miss out on potential profits.

Something can—and should—be done in the workplace to change this. According to the WHO, adequate nutrition can raise national productivity levels by 20%.

As an employer, you may have to invest some more money into healthier food options. In reality, you shouldn’t see this as a loss because you will be repaid in other ways.

Reduced absences and accidents

One of the ways an employer’s investment into their workforce’s diet will pay off is through a reduction in worker absences and accidents.

Eating unhealthy foods leads to obesity and an increased risk of chronic diseases. When employees are sick, they will stay home from work or may need to undergo expensive surgeries. The cost of this adds up in the long run. In fact, the annual economic cost of obesity alone to business in the US, for either insurance costs, sick leave or other related payments, amount to over $12 billion annually! That’s a lot of money being spent unnecessarily.

Providing employees with healthier food options can also reduce accidents in the workplace. Employees who are not getting enough nutrients will feel tired and their alertness at work may be reduced—leading them to bump into things, drop things or even slip and fall.

Demonstration of corporate responsibility                               

As an employer or business owner, you want to have a good reputation, while being honest and socially responsible. If you take responsibility for your workforce’s diet, they will respect you more and give you genuine praise. They may even enjoy coming into work a little bit more and participate actively.

Customers and other members of the community will also take notice of your socially responsible actions and you will gain a positive public image, which will benefit your business.


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Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.