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How Attitudes To Food In The Office Are Changing

The way people fuel themselves is having a big impact on companies

17Mar

When we look at strategy, we normally talk about the importance of implementations, communication channels and the complex ways in which companies try to grow; it is a high level discussion or a dialogue about how to transform a company from the bottom. However, it often fails to address one of the key areas, namely how all of these changes are fuelled.

In almost every area of society, our diets are becoming increasingly important, but it is largely ignored at work in exchange for either comfort foods - if it's been a hard day - or something quick if you are busy. This can have a significant impact on the output of a company, though, with obesity having nearly doubled since 1980. According to the Telegraph, obesity causes six working days to be lost every year and costs £20 billion every year in the UK alone.

However, health complications aren't the only issue with nourishment in the workplace. After all, a lack of sustenance can have a significant impact on work performance. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a fairly common effect of not eating enough to fuel your day at work, and can severely impair decision making and basic motor functions. It doesn't take a genius to understand that being in this kind of state is going to have a detrimental effect on performance.

The difficulty that many people find is that offices are often surrounded by either fast food or similarly unhealthy food choices. Exacerbating this is the fact that most offices have only limited kitchen facilities, which normally consists of a kettle, microwave and sink. It limits what can be eaten to either food that can be microwaved, bought from surrounding shops or transported from home.

However, some companies have taken advantage of this need for healthy and speedy food in the workplace.

One of the main players in this has been POD, a company formed in 2005. The idea was to create healthy and nutritious food that still kept with the ethos of speed that almost everybody in London needs thanks to the busy environment. The company has since expanded to 21 other locations (all still within London), and it seems that office workers have bought into the company ethos.

It wasn't just their own staff who bought into the idea of healthy fast food, though, as in 2011 they had a significant investment from Limestone Capital, which saw them expand from eight shops to the 22 they have today. This expansion is ongoing, with a recent partnership with SSP likely to see the brand moving into train stations and transport hubs across the UK.

With the media now seemingly obsessed with the obesity epidemic that we currently find ourselves in, POD seem to have hit the ground at exactly the right time. They themselves admit this: ‘The timing was good…consumers in general were becoming more aware of their eating habits so we worked hard to establish bright, spirited, seasonal menus filled with dishes that were big on taste and rich in health benefits'. This strategy seems to have paid off for them, and shows that employees do recognise their nutritional needs.

However, is this something that companies themselves should be looking at for their employees?

It is a strategy that many companies have already adopted, with Google and Facebook both looking at their employees’ nutritional needs by supplying free, healthy lunches to everybody in their offices. This created an environment that promotes healthy eating in the workplace, but also had a knock-on effect.

Josef Desimone, Facebook's executive chef, made the point that 'Google offered food — all of a sudden, they were the engineering mecca. Facebook offered food and, all the sudden, same thing. You know, they become the engineering mecca...There's a reason for that. ... It's a great recruiting tool.' So through providing this kind of employee benefit, both companies found that it had an impact on their recruitment process as well as the happiness and wellbeing of their workers.

This is obviously not something that every company could consider, but the benefits seem clear and even if you can't provide free lunches, educating your workforce on nutrition can have significant positive impacts. 

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