5 (or 10!) a day: What role should employers play in employee health?

July 24, 2017

In part one of his health related blog, HR180’s HR Assistant, Nuhman Sharif, took a wry look at the most up to date Government guidance on the correct number of portions of fruit and veg we should eat daily. In this, part 2 in the mini series, Nuhman considers the role employers should play in promoting good health amongst their employees.

5 a day 10 a day employee wellbeing

By Nuhman Sharif

At the end of part one of my blog mini-series, I raised an interesting question, namely what role should employers play in promoting good health amongst their employees?

More specifically, should employers encourage their workforce to eat more healthily by, for example, providing a bowl of fruit in the workplace?

What do the boffins say?

Research suggests numerous benefits of supplying ‘healthy’ snacks. The Fruitful Office found that the provision of free fruit boosted energy levels amongst employees. Participants also stated that having fruit in their work space  resulted in a change in their eating habits (i.e. 45% had reduced their regular intake of ‘unhealthy’ snacks). They also felt more valued as employees –  indicative of improved morale.

Where employees are reducing (or ditching completely) calorie-rich and nutritionally empty ‘junk’ foods for fruit – lighter and packed full of important vitamins and minerals – it results in greater productivity, with the added benefit of helping employees in terms of weight management which is especially important for those in office-based roles which are traditionally quite sedentary.

Fruit consumption has also been shown to improve temperament due to the presence of antioxidants and enzymes.

How about in your own workplace?

I think it would be safe to say that it’s a great idea for employers to provide fruit in the workplace, but how such a scheme is implemented requires careful consideration. Getting employees engaged is critical and also it’s essential that managers lead by example.

It’s important that employees ‘buy in’ to any scheme and are made aware of why this would benefit them.

This wasn’t the case when I visited an office several years ago where an ‘edict’ had come from the distant powers that be (i.e. Head Office) that there would be a week of healthy eating and unlimited fruit would be made available.

The fruit bowl was barely touched and next to it were half empty boxes of bite-sized caramel shortbread and cornflake squares…I don’t think the employees really bought into this scheme!

Any healthy eating cultural change does need to be voluntary and employees should not be made to feel bad if they don’t wish to participate.

The employer’s role is to simply promote healthy lifestyles but ultimately, as adults and free-thinking individuals, employees should decide how best to live their lives.

Introducing super foods might mean you need a super team of HR folk to help you change the culture in your organisation. If you need help with this or any other people related matter in your business, please get in touch – contact details are below.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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