It’s not that no one is talking about it; it’s that we’re collectively not listening.
Don’t Be Afraid to Question The Status Quo
In 1917 a book entitled Primer of Hygiene: Being a Simple Textbook on Personal Health and How to Keep It shared that cigarette smoking affected the body negatively. And yet, the decades that followed not only conveyed cigarettes as a sign of one’s entry into adulthood, but they also glamorized it. Not until 1964 did Surgeon General Luther Terry release the first Surgeon’s General Report linking smoking to cancer. And not until 1993 were hospitals mandated to go ‘smoke-free.’
Why did Americans go 76 years, from 1917 to 1993, before ensuring the beacons of health, hospitals, were indeed a healthy environment? Although a conversation on the evolution of cigarettes could be had and even a discussion about one’s freedom is fair, it often boils down to two things:
- It’s difficult to stop doing something you like to do.
- Even if you’re not doing the action deemed detrimental to your health, it’s challenging
to take a stance on a topic that you know may hurt feelings or rock the boat.
Nutrition is the Key to Employee Engagement
So what’s the next conversation Americans need to have, even though it won’t be easy and people will resist? What is it that Americans accept as normal but is actually a byproduct of our fast-paced world that’s killing us from the inside out? What do we not want to talk about, and as a result, are enabling Americans to fall deeper into poor health and lower levels of productivity?
The answer is one word: Nutrition.
Just as with the conversation on cigarettes, the discussion on nutrition’s powerful effects in the workplace isn’t new– we’re just not listening. Personnel Today released an article entitled, Good Nutrition Means Employees are Happier in Their Roles, which used data to prove that employees with good nutrition experienced lower stress levels, less absenteeism, and more productivity than employees with poor nutrition. And in 2019, Forbes released an article entitled Nutrition: The Missing Piece of the Corporate Wellness Puzzle, and it shared that “a study by Bringham Young University shows that people with unhealthy eating habits are 66% more likely to demonstrate poor productivity at work.”
Someone can be the best boss at a company that offers the best benefits and wages, and yet, if employees are constantly sluggish, calling in sick, or chronically depleted of energy because of their diet, that company will not operate at its full potential until the conversation turns toward nutrition.
Tips for How to Start Talking About Nutrition at Work
So what’s a company’s first step toward encouraging proper nutrition so that employees function at their best? Answer: Invite people with the nutritional knowledge and superb communication skills needed to inspire and transform; invite people like The Jellison Group to start and continue the conversation.
Even for those business leaders who wholeheartedly embrace the brain-body-productivity connection, they may wonder if they can indeed be a catalyst for nutritional change in their employees’ lives, and to that, I scream YES!
For many, their day resembles something close to the following:
- 8:30 am-5 pm: Work
- 5-11 pm: Home
- Remaining hours: Sleep & Work Preparation
When you consider a typical workday, work often claims the majority of an employee’s waking hours, which means work plays a HUGE role in employees’ nutrition. Companies need healthy choices in vending machines and the cafeteria line. Companies need to educate employees about the effects of good and poor nutrition. If doing something for your employees because it’s the best thing for them isn’t enough of a reason to bring the conversation on nutrition into the workplace, perhaps the fact that proper nutrition is linked to increased employee productivity and decreased absenteeism will be enough.
Remember: Before a problem can be tackled, it first needs to be seen. From asking a health expert to conduct an on-site informational seminar to conducting full health checkups to sending out healthy recipes each week, so much can be done to help employees embrace proper nutrition. If cigarettes can go from a symbol of young Hollywood to the face of cancer, encouraging employees to focus on good nutrition habits can go from an idyllic thought to a critical item listed on the company’s mission statement.
Be brave and wise enough to say: Nutrition, I’m coming for you.