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Wellness in the workplace: Food for thought

How much thought have you given to the role food plays in your workplace?

Perhaps you’ve never given it a second thought. After-all ‘desktop dining’, snacking, and short lunches, are an accepted part of a fast-paced working culture.

But things are changing.

Research tells us that overworked, sleep-deprived, and sugar-fuelled employees are less productive and less happy. Forward-thinking employers have responded with comprehensive workplace wellness programmes that include the promotion of healthy eating and exercise.

The power of food

Around a third of our daily calories are consumed at work so healthy eating in the workplace should be a priority for businesses. But if promoting healthy choices is your only motivation, you are missing a bigger opportunity.

In a previous post we discussed how to use workplace design to increase accidental meetings between members of staff. Food is also a powerful way of bringing people together.

According to the Oxford University, eating together increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing. It also allows workers to switch off from busy schedules and enjoy a moment of relaxation. Scientists studying brain scans have discovered that moments of creativity take place when the mind is at rest rather than working on something. This is why ideas can appear to come out of nowhere.

Bringing workers together using food goes beyond simply promoting healthy options. In many agile office environments communal food and drink areas are a central part of the design. They not only serve as places for people to eat but are often used as touchdown points or hot desks.

The Platinum standard – Crown Estate, London

The Crown Estate headquarters in London is an exemplary example of using food to lead environmental and behavioural change. It is the first in Europe to achieve a WELL Platinum certification and is among the top two percent of buildings in the world for employee experience.

The Crown Estate’s 1 St James’s Market office is an agile space and its café serves as a focal point for its workplace strategy. “We have a big communal table that seats 20 people in our café,” says Colin Mooney, Head of Operational Resilience. “People will come and sit down and talk to each other. That is the driver. It’s about having a change in environment. It’s about meeting other people from across the organisation and having an informal networking opportunity every lunchtime.”

Promoting healthy eating is also a priority for the business and a large requirement of the WELL Standard. Giving employees choice and consistent access to healthy options was key. For example, the salad bar has been given a prominent position at the centre of the café, healthy snacks are by the till, while sugary drinks and chocolate bars are stored behind the counter.

It’s about embedding healthy choices into the initial design. Dan Kelly is Deputy Managing Director of Food and Operations at Vacherin, caterers for The Crown Estate. “Nutrition is something that architects and engineers tend not to be responsible for, yet it has a huge impact on people’s health,” he says. “WELL emphasises the fact that, where possible, mindful eating and healthier food choices should be part of the design and not merely an afterthought.”

Let’s talk about food

At Borg & Overström we provide lunch and eat together in our canteen. What started as necessity, due to our rural location, has become a valued part of our culture. We have two distinct parts of our business, production and office, and our communal dining area is crucial for bringing these teams together.

Not all businesses have the resources to create radical changes like The Crown Estate, but all have the ability to start a conversation about food in their organisation. By talking with workers, you could discover opportunities for making your eating areas better, or uncover new ways to encourage for healthy eating. We expect to see more workplace dining initiatives in 2019.


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