Did you know that what you eat can keep you away from a promotion or bonus? Does food affect our productivity?

Being on a diet is usually associated with the pursuit of a perfect body or better health. However, there’re hardly any mentions of the link between what we eat and... the quality of our work. It turns out, though, that what goes on employees’ plates affects their performance and growth potential. In fact, the impact is felt throughout the whole company.

Read on to find answers to the following questions:

  • What are the effects of diet on productivity and quality of work?
  • What are the most common nutritional mistakes made by employees?
  • How can companies support their employees in healthy eating?

Did you know that… Johnson and Johnson has calculated that every dollar spent by the company on an employee wellness program to promote healthy eating and physical activity translates to nearly three dollars in savings for the employer? [1]

What aspects of work can be affected by diet?

  • Higher efficiency

Research from the World Health Organization is clear: regular healthy meals throughout the day raise productivity levels by approximately 20%. Similar conclusions have been reached by the Health Enhancement Research Organization. According to its estimates, productivity rises by as much as 25%. However, it’s equally important to ensure a regular intake of healthy fluids. It turns out that even mild dehydration (2–3%, when your mouth feels dry) leads to a 20% decline in workplace productivity. [1] In a nutshell, a healthy diet is linked to efficient work.

  • Less employee absenteeism

Absence due to sickness and its importance for each employee and the company as a whole are addressed HERE. In this context, it must be noted that eating has a major impact on immunity which, in turn, affects the number of sick leaves. What may help is a diet rich in vitamin C and unsaturated fatty acids, which is considered a real immunity booster.

  • Better working climate

The whole team works better when there’re no underlying conflicts or stressors in the workplace. However, coffee and tea, which are so popular with employees, impair the absorption of iron and magnesium – elements responsible for our well-being or feeling stressed and fatigued. Good work performance also requires potassium, and a deficiency of this element may cause irritability. Consequently, a well-balanced diet can make a real difference to the factors that contribute to the work climate. And good working atmosphere is known to improve performance and productivity.

  • Better quality

Problems with concentration may lead to costly mistakes, and in extreme situations even cause accidents at work. Among other factors, impaired concentration is associated with carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates (found, for example, in raw vegetables) provide a major energy boost, while simple carbohydrates leave people feeling drowsy and sluggish, and trigger problems with concentration. The ability to focus attention is also affected by meal times or, to be more precise, intervals between meals. They should not be longer than 3–4 hours. Otherwise, blood glucose levels may drop. What are the effects? Lack of concentration, sluggishness or irritability. [2]

What is the practice like? A study has found that of the 62% of employees claiming to have a healthy diet only 31% had moderately healthy eating habits. [2]

Cardinal sins in nutrition committed by Polish employees
  • Eating breakfast too late 

A study conducted by DailyFruits, entitled “Żywieniowe nawyki pracujących Polaków”, has found that as many as 46% of professionally active Poles have breakfast too late. As a result, for much of the day, they are not as productive as individuals with healthy eating habits. [2]

  • Not enough meals in the day 

A survey conducted by IPSOS has revealed that as many as one third of Poles have less than two meals throughout their working day. They usually have sandwiches for lunch, followed by sugary snacks. [4] Another study, commissioned by the recruitment website, has identified an even more concerning trend: as many as 15% of Poles don’t eat at all during the working day. [5]

  • Snacks instead of fruit and vegetables 

As mentioned above, indulging in sugary snacks is another nutritional sin in Polish companies. Employees pick sugar-rich foods instead of vegetables (which as many as 41% of respondents do not eat regularly) or fruit (which as many as 46% of employees do not eat on a daily basis). [2]

  • Insufficient fluid intake

An unquestionable must-have for office staff is coffee. Generally, we have difficulty with maintaining good body hydration. More than 50% of survey respondents fail to supply their bodies with enough water. [2] 

  • Meals at the desk 

This habit unfortunately often leads to rushed eating (and gastric problems) and choosing meals that provide a quick energy ‘kick’, which typically means a heavy dose of simple carbohydrates. Meanwhile, up to two-thirds of employees regularly have their main meal at their desk. [3] In addition to being a bad eating habit, the practice is highly unhygienic and contributes to conflicts within the team, especially considering the fact that intense odours can be distracting or irritating.

How can the employer help?

Naturally, it’s not the company’s role to tell employees what they should eat every day. Still, there’s an array of ways to draw their attention to this important issue. A considerable part of them are already used with good success by Polish entrepreneurs. However, the key to success is synergy: the desired results can be achieved only through good planning and putting many solutions together. Another important principle is “Don’t force anything”; instead, the focus should be on educating people and creating opportunities for healthy eating. A list of dos and don’ts about eating in certain places or at defined times can have a major negative impact on the working atmosphere.