Corporate Wellness Week: Importance of nutrition in the workplace

Consuming foods that cause spikes in sugar levels can result in reduced productivity, as employees experience symptoms such as fatigue and drowsiness. Picture: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

Consuming foods that cause spikes in sugar levels can result in reduced productivity, as employees experience symptoms such as fatigue and drowsiness. Picture: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

Published Jul 7, 2023


In today’s fast-paced world, adults who work full-time spend a significant time of their waking hours at their workplace.

Surprisingly, it is also where they consume over a third of their daily calories. As we celebrate Corporate Wellness Week, both employers and employees must recognise that the quality of our work is directly influenced by what we eat.

The sedentary nature of office jobs, coupled with the prevalence of sugary and fatty office treats, puts employees at risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.

Omy Naidoo, co-founder of Newtricion Wellness Dieticians, spoke to Independent Media Lifestyle bringing to attention that unhealthy eating results in spikes in sugar levels which thereby reduces productivity in employees by increasing symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, and inability to complete tasks satisfactorily

He said, unfortunately, the demanding workday often leaves employees with little time to pack nutritious meals and snacks from home. As a result, many resort to unhealthy takeaways or opt for foods available in the workplace canteen.

However, research has shown that most organisations lack healthy meal options, further exacerbating the issue.

“Performance is achieved by maintenance of good blood glucose levels. Meaning when your sugar levels are too high or too low, this can impact your ability to focus or concentrate. One can maintain a good blood glucose level throughout the day by having high fibre foods such as veggies in meals, brown bread, nuts, fruit, dried fruit, beans, peas, lentils.”

Other good foods for performance include fish which are rich in omega 3 such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, blueberries, bananas, avocados and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, said Naidoo.

Obesity is a pressing concern that affects employee health but also hampers productivity in the workplace.

The repercussions of obesity extend far beyond physical appearance, as it is linked to various serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea, gall bladder disease, gut health issues, and heart disease.

Unfortunately, many cases of these conditions go undiagnosed, leading to increased employee absenteeism and decreased overall productivity.

He explained that unhealthy eating habits play a significant role in exacerbating these issues. Consuming foods that cause spikes in sugar levels can result in reduced productivity, as employees experience symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness and an inability to complete tasks satisfactorily.

“The magic behind incorporating fruits and vegetables into one’s diet lies in their high fibre content, which stabilises blood glucose levels, preventing drastic highs and lows that can negatively impact performance.

“Additionally, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which have been shown to improve mental performance.

“As Corporate Wellness Week approaches, it is crucial to explore the actions employers can take to promote healthier eating habits among their employees.”

He added: “One effective step employers can take is to connect with dieticians and initiate wellness campaigns that educate employees about the importance of proper nutrition. These campaigns can include initiatives such as the popular ‘biggest loser’ competitions, which have seen an increased trend in recent years.

“By encouraging healthy competition and providing support, employers can motivate employees to make positive changes in their eating habits.”

Furthermore, promoting a healthy work-life balance is essential for enhancing long-term productivity and retaining valuable employees. Encouraging breaks, providing flexible working hours, and creating a supportive environment that values self-care can go a long way in ensuring employees prioritise their health.

Corporate Wellness Week serves as a reminder to employers that investing in employee health and well-being is a win-win situation.

By addressing the factors contributing to obesity and promoting healthier eating habits, companies can improve employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and foster a positive work culture. Together, employers and employees can embark on a journey towards a healthier and more productive workforce.

“But ultimately employees need to take responsibility for their health. We as a dietician practice work with large organisations running employee wellness programmes or offering the dietician service at the work site,” said Naidoo.

“Unfortunately due to the lack of awareness at times, dieticians mostly work in the reactive space focusing on employees who have medical conditions and then assisting them to manage them.”

Employers must start to foster a culture of well-being, care and encouragement within your organisation. Realising that your employees are your biggest asset and their good health directly impacts your bottom line.

Check with employees regularly on work-life balance, as this when out of balance increases staff turnover which has a huge cost on organisations, advised Naidoo.