HR Management

Can Healthy Snacks Really Boost Employee Engagement?

Engagement in the workplace is as bad as it has ever been. Today we’ll hear from Sean Kelly, CEO of SnackNation on why something as simple as healthy snacks really can make a big difference.

By Sean Kelly, SnackNation cofounder and CEO

There’s an epidemic in the American workplace.

It’s undermining your company’s ability to reach its full potential and zapping individual employees of their energy and purpose.

The culprit?

A lack of employee engagement.

According to research firm Gallup, the vast majority—nearly 70%— of U.S. employees are not engaged in their current roles. Within that group, 17.5% characterize themselves as actively disengaged, which means that they are actively working to undermine the success of their own companies.

(Let that idea sink in for a second.)

All this apathy has wide-ranging economic consequences. According to the 2013 State of the American Workplace report, Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs American companies $450 to $550 billion in lost productivity. They also recently demonstrated that disengaged companies consistently underperform in a number of categories, including profits, productivity, and retention.

But the numbers only tell half the story.

Engaged employees are happier and more fulfilled. They look forward to going to work and are eager to take on challenges and pursue personal and professional growth. And since most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, employee engagement elevates our overall quality of life.

Admittedly, employee engagement is a complex subject. After all, engagement is all about people, and people are complicated. We all carry a matrix of emotional, cultural, and psychological factors that affect our behavior. So, where to start?

One of the easiest, most effective places to start is with office nutrition. Here’s why.

Engagement Is All About Emotion

Many companies fail to realize that employee engagement is largely about connecting with your employees on an emotional level, showing them you care about their growth, development, and overall well-being.

Why is this the case? The definition of engagement offered by Emma Bridger gives us a clue.

According to Bridger, employee engagement is “[t]he extent to which people are personally involved in the success of a business.” In other words, employees must have a personal stake in their company’s success, which requires an emotional leap.

Providing your employees with proper nutrition sends a signal that they are cared for and appreciated, and is a great first step in establishing a culture of engagement.

Nothing Impacts Performance Like Nutrition

But engagement isn’t just about how you feel—ultimately, it’s about performance. And there’s nothing that affects performance like nutrition.

I’m often surprised by how little attention is paid to nutrition in the workplace. The fact is, there is virtually no area of life that isn’t affected by how we choose to fuel our bodies—so why would the workplace be any exception?

This is particularly true when it comes to mood and cognition. Our brains run on glucose, and our ability to concentrate and focus starts with a proper supply of complex carbohydrates. By choosing slow-release, low-glycemic whole grains instead of simple carbs (like refined sugars), your employees will feel mentally alert throughout the day.

Likewise, whole grains boost mood by helping deliver tryptophan to the brain. Tryptophan is the building block of serotonin, one of the brain’s “feel good” chemicals, so the more your brain has, the more serotonin it will produce. Refined sugars, on the other hand, contribute to focus- and mood-derailing crashes.

Studies also show that employees are getting a third or more of their total caloric intake in the form of snacks. On top of that, no meal category affects one’s overall eating habits like snacking. So creating better snack habits not only impacts our mood at work, it also improves our overall health and nutrition.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how Millennials respond to perks like healthy snacks.