I’ve worked in HR for more than 10 years and have seen a plethora of wellbeing programs designed to encourage employees to be healthier. These have ranged from ‘tick the box’ initiatives to holistic programs that have really strived to pierce the surface of corporate speak and inspire individual lifestyle changes.
Wellness programs have become an expectation of employers rather than a differentiator and it’s not hard to understand why. The rising prevalence of chronic disease as a result of increased risk behaviours, which include poor diet, is having a huge impact on businesses.
But what I have found to be a common ‘missing piece’ is a real commitment to supporting positive food choices in the working environment.
True wellbeing is of course an amalgam of so many things; good sleep, regular movement, meditation (or flow), quality social connections, just to name a few. But I choose the example of food because it demonstrates how our impulses can override our conscious thoughts. I also choose food because what we feed our bodies is the foundation for how we feel, think and perform.
We have all experienced the overpowering effect of food. We know we shouldn’t have a piece of chocolate cake but it is right in front of our face, and Susan and Jane are having a piece, plus it’s Thursday afternoon which is pretty much Friday anyway. So what the hell, you only live once.
I don’t think we can blame a lack of willpower for this. Will power will often lose the head-to-head battle with convenience. So it is a mystery why so many working environments are constructed to facilitate the consumption of processed, sugary snacks and soft drinks. From vending machines, to fundraising chocolates, to morning and afternoon teas with cakes, muffins and biscuits.
This may seem like a small thing but the regular consumption of refined sugars can create overstimulation (pathways) in the brain causing cravings for more sugar. It's a pretty vicious cycle; sugar begets sugar begets sugar.
Of course there are no quick fixes – people must choose to change their behaviour. However, they can be supported to make changes if they are given the right environment, incentives and tools. Workplaces have an opportunity to find that missing piece and create an environment that truly supports healthy eating habits.
So this is really the heart of Brain Snacks which is more than just ‘snacks’. It offers workplaces a way to nudge employees towards healthier eating which is the gateway to overall wellbeing. This is just the beginning. Watch this space because we are planning big things to transform snacking in the workplace.
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