The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Member Blog - Staff Wellbeing: A preventative approach

By Hannah Osman - Founder, Nuba Health

It is well documented that our physical and mental performance is intricately linked to our diet, environment and lifestyle. What we eat, drink, and how we live our lives affects our health, energy levels, motivation, attitudes and even the decisions we make on a daily basis.

At work, we need to be energetic, focused, confident, happy and productive - functions that are all affected by diet.

Eating nutritious meals and snacks helps us to perform well mentally and physically, reduces the negative effects of work-related stress and leads to increased productivity. With the majority of our time being spent at work, most workers eat at least one, if not two meals during the working day, and so healthy eating at work should be actively encouraged. In fact, recently, Unum reported that two-thirds of employees believe that their employer is responsible for their wellbeing.

Energy levels are very dependent on the state of our blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels fall too low we can feel tired, dizzy or simply lack concentration. On the other hand, if glucose in the bloodstream is kept nice and steady, we feel energised, awake and alert.

The ugly truth is that when we most need to look after ourselves is when we are the least likely to do so. When we are stressed, our body uses the nutrients it is given to produce stress hormones in order to help the body withstand stress, instead of feeding our vital health systems. Stress causes a release of adrenaline, which releases sugar into the bloodstream. This impacts the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, which leads to the cycle of cravings for sugar, stimulants, alcohol and cigarettes.

So how, as an employer, can you prevent the viscous cycle from arising?

You can:

1. Take a preventative approach to diet and stress
2. Optimise nutrition when the team are at their busiest.

Taking a preventative approach to diet and stress

As the economy in Manchester is on the up, employers are turning their attention to mindfulness and mental wellbeing in the bid to attract and keep the right staff.  In a recent Financial Directors’ report, encouraging health-related activities scored more highly in importance than other benefits like private healthcare and flexible working.

Being preventative does not have to be a big measure, it can become part of company culture by reinforcing messages and making the transition to a healthy lifestyle an easier one. You are almost certainly already on the right path with cycle to work schemes and activities such as running clubs.
However, changing diet is more easily said than done, as this requires education on what is and is not healthy, amongst the myriad of marketing messaging and processed options on the high street. Education is key to help people make informed choices when it comes to their diet and help them to help themselves.

For example, did you know that Sprouting seeds and pulses such as alfalfa and lentils multiply the nutrient content of a meal? This results in a mineral and fibre-rich seed packed with nutrients as well as protein and even essential fatty acids that are vital to support the adrenal (stress) glands.

Optimising nutrition when the team are at their busiest

According to Workforce Wellbeing, part of the Government’s ‘Fit for Work’ initiative, employees with poor nutrition are 15% less productive than those with better nutrition. That equates to around 16 days of lost time per employee per year.

Yet, rather than manage our diet, most of us look to stimulants such as caffeine and our favourite ‘comfort foods’ to see us through the hard times. Stimulants and processed foods high in sugar are dietary stressors and worsen our feeling of stress. When our body is using up essential nutrients to fight stress, we should be supplementing it with additional good nutrition to maintain strong and healthy bodies and minds.

None of us can control what staff eat outside work during these busy and potentially stressful times, so it is important to encourage staff to make sensible dietary choices. This can be done by limiting unhealthy options available, such as introducing healthy snacks in to vending machines or removing vending machines entirely. If people are your product and their time is money, then subsidising healthy meals or even providing free meals for staff can provide a huge incentive to eat well, improve staff job satisfaction and reduce their likelihood of opting for cheap, unhealthy foods and slipping into the negative cycle.

For example, did you know that carrots and walnuts are a great combination for sustained energy? Carrots are a natural energy source of carbohydrate, whilst walnuts, and walnut oil provide protein, minerals, and essential fats for optimal energy production and brain function.

Who are NUBA Health?

NUBA Health, founded by Hannah Osman, is a Manchester City Centre based healthy meal service, who work with individuals and businesses to optimise their nutrition by providing fresh healthy meals delivered daily to the workplace.

Focusing on ‘food for thought’, NUBA design and make meals tailored for specific goals, brain functions and bespoke dietary requirements.

Hannah says that “Working with organisations to build a happier, healthier and more productive workforce is incredibly topical and interesting work, as every organisation and individual within a team is different. For a business, it might be about reducing absenteeism from sickness, but for the staff it’s about enjoying their weekends, or getting home in time to see the kids.”

NUBA are offering lunchtime talks to Chamber members to cover the basics of eating for health. As part of this they also take a look at easy sugar swaps, what and how to eat when you are busy and also provide a Quick and Healthy e-recipe booklet for staff to help them eat well when they are busy.

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