As a manager, part of your job is to inspire your team to do what you want them to do. Typically, this relates directly to their work performance. Their work performance can, however, be directly influenced by their health.
Their health can be directly influenced by their diet. This means that influencing your team to eat well could boost their performance.
Set the example you want others to follow
There are as many different management styles as there are managers. The effective ones all require managers to set the example they want their team to follow. For this to happen, your team has to be aware of what you’re doing. In the context of promoting healthy eating, this means that it’s helpful for you to eat with your team.
If that’s not possible, then at least try to eat your food in a break area rather than at your desk. This not only lets your team see that you’re eating healthily. It also lets them see that it’s OK to take breaks, especially at meal times. Also, if you’ve been in the habit of eating your meals at your desk, it will be good for you too.
Offer healthy food options
Even if you’re not in sales, you’re probably familiar with the principle of making it easy for people to do what you want them to do. If you want your team to eat healthy food at work, then you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
What that means in practice will depend largely on your workplace and your work style. For example, a city centre office that only opens in the daytime will be very different from a manufacturing plant in an industrial zone, operating 24/7. Whatever your environment, however, you should aim to promote healthy food options as much as you can.
For many workplaces, technology could be the key to success here. Post COVID19 working practices are making it increasingly less practical to run on-site canteens. Furthermore, on-site canteens were often of limited to no benefit to workers on non-standard shifts. Vending machines, by contrast, can run 24/7/365. They can also take cards (and mobile payments) as well as cash.
If you’re running work events, make sure that there are healthy options available. This may require you to develop new habits as a manager. For example, if you habitually order hot drinks and chocolate biscuits for meetings, try swapping out the biscuits for healthier options. This could simply mean a healthier biscuit such as plain digestives. Alternatively, it could mean a sugar-free snack such as rice cakes.
Make sure your team members get breaks
Healthy food takes more time to eat than unhealthy foods. Unhealthy foods are highly processed. This means that they can often be gulped down without any real thought let alone effort.
Healthy foods, by contrast, need to be properly chewed and digested. They are also likely to need more cooking time. For example, a toasted sandwich made with wholegrain bread will often take longer to heat through than one made with highly-processed white bread.
As a bonus, encouraging your team members to take breaks helps them destress and recharge. This can help them from developing comfort-eating habits and/or snacking to keep up their energy levels. This in turn can prevent people from getting onto sugar highs and then experiencing sugar crashes.
Educate your team
In the modern world, most people probably already grasp the basics of healthy eating. What they might not grasp is why they should care about it. Even if they do, they might not be concerned enough to make the effort to put it into practice.
It’s still a good idea to make sure that there is basic information on what healthy eating means. Some employees may need it. Most of your effort, however, should usually go towards convincing your employees that they should care about healthy eating. The rest should go towards finding ways to help them make it happen.
Remember, you can’t force your team to pay attention to your guidance. You can, however, create engaging guidance that gets their attention. For example, try to keep your education short, practical and entertaining. If you have the resources, try to encourage some healthy competition amongst your team. For example, create quizzes and run activities and games.
Make healthy eating a team activity
Most workplaces have some scope for teams to participate in activities that aren’t directly related to work. They are particularly likely to sign off on activities that are low-cost (or free) and/or benefit the business in some way. For example, they will often sign off on teams taking a day out to volunteer for a charity.
Make as much use of this as you can. Team-building activities are the adult equivalent of school trips. They often have genuine educational value but they’re also meant to be fun. This means that team activities can be great ways to engage with people who don’t respond to other efforts to educate them. Alternatively, they can be ways to enhance learning.
If you want to approach the issue from a different angle, try getting people active and then giving them a healthy meal. This can get people to experience the benefits of exercise and healthy eating in a way they might not have done since their childhood. It might be just what they need to get them to buy into it again.
Drinking healthily is at least as important as eating healthily. There is currently an ongoing debate about how much water an individual should drink a day. There is, however, still complete agreement that people should aim to drink healthy liquids such as water and milks. They should limit caffeine and alcohol and be very careful with fruit juices.
Fruit juices do often have a lot of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). The problem is that they also tend to have a lot of sugar. This is not counterbalanced by fibre the way it is with whole fruit.
Ellice Hudson is the Operations Director at Workplace Refreshments, that specialise in fresh local delivery for workplaces across Nottinghamshire. Workplace Refreshments are the one-stop place to get office food and drink essentials