With healthcare spending expected to rise on average 5.5% annually until the year 2026[i], supporting employee health is now every company’s business.
With evidence growing on the positive relationship between diet and health, more people than ever are starting to take matters into their own hands, and plates. Almost 75% of people surveyed had a “health problem that could become serious if not addressed by changes in their diet.” Yet the question of what they should and shouldn’t eat came in dead last as one of the reasons they found it difficult to adhere to a specific eating style to improve their health. The #1 difficulty surveyors reported was that “food is not available or cooked properly out” (i.e., office, social and business events)[ii]
The question that must be answered now is, how can companies take a more active role to help facilitate their employee’s healthy diet? Offering employees easy-access to food that caters to specific eating styles such as gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar, high protein and vegetarian meals, for example, could prove to be a powerful tool to impact employee health, costs, productivity and even quality of life.
Here are a few ideas to help employees help themselves to health:
- Provide on-site dining that supports a variety of eating styles and dietary restrictions.
The expression, “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” has never been truer. Employees appreciate meals that are subsidized, complimentary or simply accessible to them. Daily offerings of fresh quality foods aren’t restricted to large corporations. Smaller firms can provide a few breakfast items such as oatmeal cups, hard-boiled eggs or fresh fruit.
Contract with a local caterer to offer simple lunches such as; grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, grain or bean salads, and vegetarian chili. Supporting employee eating styles encourages them to stay on track, saves time and hassle, and shows employer support for individual health goals.
- Sponsor cooking classes or demos for different eating styles to develop employee’s cooking skills.
Foods prepared at home are less likely to be loaded with salt, fat, and sugar so the more employees develop basic cooking skills, the easier and more likely they are to prepare simple, healthy meals at home. Invite a local chef or cooking school student into the office over lunch one day and watch employee’s eyes light up and engage in conversation with co-workers.
- Partner with local restaurants and organic eateries that provide healthy options and reward employees with discounts and gift certificates.
There are so many new restaurants, take-out meal services and organic markets popping up in cities across the country. Establish partnerships with those who provide meals with simple, whole foods and cater to specific eating styles. Use discount coupons and gift certificates to motivate employees or reward them for a job well-done.
- Sponsor “Eating Clubs” to support a variety of food plans.
Having a tribe of people who share the same health goals or eating style is a huge recipe for success. Offer to sponsor The Keto Club, The Vegan Group or whatever is most popular in the office. Having the ability to share in the challenges and lessons learned from others who simply “get it” can make all the difference in the world. Treat the group to a special snack box delivered each month and set-up a Facebook group or discussion forum for members to share knowledge.
Host a Health Coach at lunch to conduct a session on a variety of health topics and use it as another way to provide dietary education and bring employees together.
- Provide access to healthy “meals to go” for busy employees working through lunch or late at night.
Perhaps a few extra lunches could be provided to employees to grab and go during busy times. They can use the time saved to take a quick walk or download a meditation app for a few minutes to relax and decompress. Stock a few meals for employees working late trying to meet a deadline. It’s best for them to eat a healthy meal and get a good night sleep in preparation for that big meeting tomorrow.
- Support access to “meal-prep kits” to encourage fast, healthy cooking at home.
Partner with meal-kit delivery services and provide employees with either discounted delivery at home or on-site pick up to stay on track with their food plan. Grabbing a meal kit on the way home from the office is not only a time-saver but also a great way to get the whole family involved in the cooking process at home.
Supporting employees to make positive changes in their diet and health is everybody’s business. It’s time companies step up their game to get to the heart and stomach of their employees, in both the theoretical and physical sense.
[i] Data from U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
[ii] Survey from, “Change BITES, 5 Change Management Strategies to Transform Your Health”