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Stephen Jones, CEO and co-founder of Nourish Fit Food.

With health top of the agenda and particularly boosting the immune system, Stephen Jones, CEO and co-founder at Nourish Fit Food talks us through the benefits employers and employees can gain from supporting their nutritional needs.

The appetite for change in business practice has never been more visible than it is today. With the pandemic set to have a lasting presence in our livelihoods, organisations now know to adopt pledges to provide a meaningful health and wellbeing journey for their employees is key to their survival. 

For many, this represents the next promising evolution of business to reconnect to serving the needs of its employees. The last five years has expanded and matured the field of knowledge around overall wellbeing, demonstrating how, by and large, mental and physical health, motivation and morale are interdependent and crucial to true and lasting success.

Statistics showing an estimated 28.2 million working days lost in the last year due to work-related ill health cement the need for businesses to invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees. Placing nutrition at the heart of wellness strategies is a solid place to start and firms that interact, engage and act to make this a core part of their employee offerings will come out on top during the pandemic and long after. 

Nutrition has a stake in the game

The relationship between what we eat and how it improves cognitive function, in turn boosting employee performance is well-documented. The secret to optimal productivity is the holy grail that every business leader strives to find. In reality, the keys to the kingdom are there for the taking and it all boils down to nutrition. 

Tight deadlines, back-to-back meetings and demanding schedules combined make it challenging to create time for proper nourishment to fuel the rest of the working day. Employees are left having to resort to dietary patterns of unhealthy snacking and purchasing lunches falling substantially short on the essential micro- and macronutrients required to energise the body efficiently.

The landscape has changed, meal deals and processed lunch options are no longer a match for many employees seeking to improve their overall health, particularly in the current climate. Society as a whole has become rapidly more engaged in how closely interlinked the gut and brain really are. Proper gut health is now widely recognised as a core aspect of mental health treatment and through applying this same approach to our workforces, businesses can demonstrate a concerted effort to truly give their employees the best chance to succeed. 

Healthy, well-balanced and nutritious meals should be a key part of any corporate wellbeing equation. Through the right food, employees’ concentration, productivity and overall energy levels are vastly improved. Access to smarter nutrition optimises engagement, bolsters immunity and reduces chronic illness, all of which enhances our workforces. 

COVID-19 sets the stage

Against the backdrop of Britain phasing out of lockdown and offices looking to reschedule the return to work, the vulnerabilities in the way workforces access fast and accessible food during their working hours needs to be addressed. 

Many businesses are facing the challenge of minimising employee risk exposure and wasted time, where employees will now have to spend valuable time in large queues as a result of limited food venues and social distancing. 

Employees are looking for safe, affordable and healthy meal options where they can best boost immunity and cater for the stresses of the current environment. This provides an opportunity for businesses to review wellness schemes where possible to offer employees subsidised meal plans. 

Healthy, high-quality, and affordable meal preparation can be used to help businesses address absenteeism from sick days and even presenteeism - where employees are at work but facing stifled productivity as a result of poor nutrition costing businesses millions of pounds. 

The need for wellbeing to be a top priority is more important now than ever before and businesses can turn this adaptability challenge into an opportunity for their environment to be reflective of those principles. 

Making nutrition a core part of your corporate culture

The last five years have shown employee demands to be part of an organisation with a purposeful direction towards overall wellness has skyrocketed. BMC Public Health and countless other studies have demonstrated how workplace nutrition intervention led to significant changes on absenteeism, work performance, workability and productivity.

Britain’s back to work efforts needs businesses to consciously create a working environment with wellbeing at the centre. To lay the foundation, firms can liaise with nutritionists who can help build a nutrition roadmap to engage with employees and host virtual ‘lunch and learn’ workshops and seminars. This offers a prime opportunity to lead employees through key nutrition principles to keep them sharp, attentive and in a good mood throughout their day. An added touch to incentivise and engage with employees could be a health challenge where a team member wins a consultation with a nutritionist or a high-quality food hamper. 

When looking at cost allocation towards wellness schemes, businesses small and large should consider free or subsidised healthy food options for employees. In fact, it wouldn’t need to be a sizable exercise with tax deductibles applied when businesses provide employees with lunch and snacks on the premises. 

Offering employees this perk has been shown to have a marked effect on productivity while also leading to more efficient use of the lunch hour. If employees were given the option to access healthy, delicious and affordable prepared meals internally, the issue where 56% UK employees don’t take their full lunch break would be addressed. Stressful long queues, indecisiveness and rushed meals will be replaced with colleagues finally able to make full use of their lunch breaks and truly have an important outlet during the day while enabling them to complete their day with more energy, delivering better performance. 

Employees will eat the majority of their diet in the office - breakfast, lunch and snacks - making it an even more attractive incentive to offer nutritious on-demand food. Delivering healthy and delicious meals to the office can cultivate greater awareness around nutrition, portion sizes and macronutrients and, in turn, influence effective habits for wellbeing. 

One step further for working-from-home (WFH) employees 

Many businesses have now embraced that their employees might work from home for an extended period of time and in the current climate, this offers a prime opportunity to deliver for them. Businesses searching for solutions to support employees in the long term should consider making the switch from deliveroo vouchers to healthy meal preparation. 

Employees are understandably struggling to find the balance between overeating, undereating, and snacking at home - a problematic cocktail that warrants addressing from a business point of view. Companies that offer a subsidised meal preparation to improve appetite, satisfaction and energy will demonstrate a commitment to supporting sustainable and healthy eating habits. 

Sleep, appetite and mood can have a large impact on the challenges of uncertainty, isolation, and siloed feelings that are taking a toll on employees’ mental health. A balanced diet that hits the essential nutrients for the gastrointestinal tract supports improved serotonin production, aiding in building better resilience and overall wellbeing. 

By offering a daily allowance for freshly prepared meal services to your WFH workforce, businesses can offer more choice, greater flexibility and time to its employees. Opening up this option to teams even if only two times per week will be hugely supportive to help WFH staff live a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. 

The winning mind

The pandemic has sped up the need for the business agenda to focus on how best to create a motivated and healthy workforce. While encouraging exercise is a strong start, it’s only part of the equation. To offer healthy nutritional options and encourage healthy eating will be reflective of a company culture that is primed to optimise the workplace wellbeing of its staff both in and beyond the office. The time is now to raise the bar and fuel and nourish your employees in the most effective way possible. 

Stephen Jones is CEO and co-founder at Nourish Fit Food, delivering delicious, healthy and affordable meal prep nationwide.

Contributed by Stephen Jones
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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