By Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Innovates (www.epinnovates.com)
Rising struggles associated with mental health and a decline in corporate wellbeing in the workplace are becoming commonplace today and many businesses have found themselves jumping onto a fast-paced rollercoaster in a bid to recognise these growing issues and to put appropriate measures in place to deal with them. From specialist Wellbeing Officers, to mental illness support and counselling services, it is no longer acceptable to ignore the importance of a happy, healthy and nurtured workplace.
Interestingly there are some more simple aspects of daily life at work that have always mattered and perhaps have even more relevance today. As more businesses seek genuine change to employee productivity, motivation and health, many look to other areas that impact wellbeing in the corporate world.
Food brings people together
Better diets, improved nutrition and attractive social spaces for workforces play a key role in corporate wellbeing today but they are also play a central role in increasing the productivity and loyalty of staff. Few can argue against this notion because in simple terms, food brings people together and is integral to culture and relationships for all manner of reasons. From socialisation and health to loyalty and dedication – food and nutrition plays a role in the workplace regardless of the industry.
Demand for organic, fresher, more sustainable and more local produce continues to be the name of the game and there is little doubt that the overall narrative around food service is starting to lead companies towards making a connection between productivity and food and the impact this can have in daily corporate life. The question is if food can boost productivity, what impact might it have of mental health and rising levels of stress in the workplace?
Essentially, the argument for investing and focusing on the power of food at work is really all about creating a stronger, more robust working environment. If we look at attributes such as service, design and accessibility the same is true; improving corporate wellness is also about creating a path for social interaction, educating people as young adults and providing a framework that supports workers and embraces the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Food holds greater psychological importance than we realise
In years gone by there were arguably more escapes and rewards during the working day, smokers would take breaks at various intervals, many more would take time out of the working day to eat out at lunchtime with colleagues. Today we know this is rare, fast desk lunches are the norm and good food is instead associated with a reward rather than something one should expect on a daily basis.
The average lunch break is just 27 minutes long (and that is for those that take one) but this needs to be much longer. If we know people are stressed and suffering with their health the challenge is to increase the level of downtime because that in turn, increases concentration levels during periods of focus. At the same time, daily life has changed and food today is most people’s moment of self-reward during the day. It holds greater psychological importance for employees than many businesses actually realise.
A bigger picture to embrace
So, if food can inspire us and is so closely linked to human culture, can businesses capitalise on this and build more engaged teams and potentially improve employee wellness, motivation and productivity simply through this connection we have with it? The answer is yes, but there are as always, barriers to overcome first. How do we solve this problem and give corporate wellness a much-needed boost? We have to change our mind-set and stop thinking about ‘food’ as just a retail concept but also as a vital service to our people.
There is no doubt that the decline in corporate wellbeing is affecting employees, society and communities across the country. But there is a bigger picture to embrace and a need for a greater recognition of the struggles businesses and employees face today. If companies could boost corporate wellness and even reduce their number of lost service days by 20% this equates to millions of pounds and makes many of the arguments over investing in the food service model seem somehow insignificant.
About EPinnovates (www.epinnovates.com)
A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses forlarger companies to discover and explore. Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value. Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult forbusinesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better byintroducinglarger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.