Part three of our three-part series Culture of Health: From Wellness to Wellbeing
Throughout this series, we’ve explored what the employee-wellness-focused software company Limeade describes as whole-person wellbeing – the idea that an individual’s wellbeing is interdependent on financial, emotional, and physical health. For our final installment, we turn our attention to the role nutrition plays in wellbeing.
The challenges we face in the United States when it comes to nutrition are well documented and well known. Our obesity rate remains alarmingly high year after year, more than doubling over the past three decades. Meal portion sizes have grown dramatically with each generation. Processed foods have flooded the marketplace and comprise a significant share of the average American diet.
The impact of these trends has proven costly, particularly in terms of what we spend on health care. The cost of treating diabetes, just one chronic disease brought on by poor nutrition, can reach $245 million annually, according to the American Diabetes Association.
This summer’s Share & Compare workshop featured a presentation from Zipongo, a San Francisco-based digital health organization. According to Zipongo, our food decisions are heavily influenced by a combination of bad food options, savvy marketing, decision-making complexity, lack of information, and an overabundance of choices.
BUILDING A HEALTHY WORKPLACE
To help employees make better food choices while navigating these external forces, Zipongo recommends that employers invest in efforts like an effective, well-thought-out employee nutrition program to help support a healthier, more productive and more engaged workforce.
Additionally, Zipongo offers these steps to begin constructing a healthy food environment for employees:
Replace the cookies and chips with fresher items. Fruits, vegetables, hummus, and other alternatives might require more replenishing, but it will get team members in the habit of reaching for a kiwi instead of a Cheeto. Worried about what to stock? Solicit ideas from your colleagues!
Sponsor wellness-focused brown bag lunches. Many health insurance companies provide access to in-person speakers to discuss nutrition, health and wellness at little to no cost. Also look in your community to see if there are local resources to draw on if your health plan administrator doesn’t provide them.
Organize on-site (or off-site) lunchtime workout groups. Can’t afford to offer a subsidized gym membership? That doesn’t mean you can’t encourage fitness! Lunchtime walking groups are a great way to get active and out for a breath of fresh air. If you have enough space, on-site yoga, pilates, and fitness classes are great motivators — and many studios offer reduced rates for corporate classes.
Make recipes and wellness information readily available. All of this is well and good while you’re at work, but what about when everyone goes home? Look into ways to encourage healthy habits at home, such as a recipe sharing club. Also, there are many platforms out there that teammates can easily access for meal inspiration from the comfort of their own home… or desk!
The American Heart Association’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit is another excellent resource to help guide your organization's efforts to build a culture of health.
The journey to employee wellbeing is ongoing and fraught with obstacles such as the social, economic and psychological aspects of health. Our series of articles has highlighted stress, financial stability and nutrition as elements of wellbeing worth highlighting.
Employers can help pave the way to having healthy, happy and productive employees by providing information and tools – like building and leveraging resilience – to enable them to make the necessary lifestyle changes to enhance their wellbeing.