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Why A Healthy Employee is A More Productive Employee

How to get your team to care more about how they fuel themselves.

Have you ever heard the saying food is fuel? Well, it’s true — literally. And it’s crucial to your success as a manager that your team members knows how to fuel themselves. The science is clear: what we eat, how often we eat and how much we eat influences how we think, feel and perform — all crucial aspects of being our best selves at work. And while you may feel uneasy talking to your team about nutrition and diet choices, it’s key for you as a manager to model the kind of habits your team should be developing.

If you work in an office environment, you’re likely celebrating someone’s birthday, wedding, baby, work anniversary or other life event on a pretty regular basis. And this usually means cupcakes, pastries or some other dessert that leads to an immediate blood sugar spike and leaves everyone feeling lethargic later in the day. Not exactly a recipe for productivity.

You might not realize it, but when you look around your office, food is everywhere. And it’s your job as a manager to be mindful of what’s kept around. That doesn’t mean you have to become the fruit and vegetable king or queen or go around the office throwing away treats, but being more cognizant of what you keep around the office will help everyone.

Perhaps one of the best known examples of this is Google’s in-house M&M experiment, which analyzed M&M consumption at the tech giant after the question was raised about whether it was a good idea to encourage these extra and unhealthy calories. The candy was placed in opaque containers while healthier snacks were displayed in glass jars. In the New York office, the 2,000 person staff consumed 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms over the course of seven weeks.

As a manager, it’s also important to lead by example by getting out of the office and eating with others, which is proven to make us more mindful eaters. Research from the NPD Group shows Americans are increasingly eating alone, and often on the go—as the study authors note, “55 percent of lunch meals are solitary occasions where quick and easy is the driving need.” And “quick and easy” often means less than healthy. We’ve all been there — shoveling a slice of pizza into our mouths at our desk, self conscious of our peers seeing us take that last bite. Inviting your team or colleagues to lunch is a great way to practice what you preach.

The brain uses one-half of all of the sugar energy in the body, according to research from Harvard University. Helping your team better understand how nutrition affects their mental performance at work not only improves their chances of success, but yours, too.

Here are a few key ways to help your team members fuel themselves better:

  1. Encourage your team to get a healthy start to their day: Research is mixed on the importance of breakfast, though one of the most recent studies, published in July 2017, concluded that eating your biggest meal in the morning may be an effective method “for preventing long-term weight gain.” In any case, we know one thing is true: our bodies need fuel (aka glucose) to get going. Eating something in the morning that combines protein, whole grains and a little fat is a great way to start the day. Role model for your team by bringing a healthy breakfast in every morning.

  2. Turn team celebrations into opportunities for healthy eating — and a little competition: Encourage your team to get creative and have a potluck of healthy options available for your next special occasion. Assign people different healthy foods as their “base” and inspire them to innovate from there.

  3. Remind your team to leave their desk for lunch: Make a point of walking over to people’s desks at lunch and inviting them leave the office with you. University of Oxford research has shown that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel satisfied with their lives. 

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