An excerpt from Lauren Parsons book ‘Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams’.
To have great energy, the three most important fundamentals are (1) great nutrition, (2) energising movement and (3) sound sleep.
I often help leaders create a more energised workplace culture by focusing on these three things and the wide range of ways you can influence them. We still so many workplaces where people face the challenges of being:
- Poorly nourished.
- Less active.
- Lacking quality rest.
The great thing is, there are a whole range of things you can do as an individual and as a leader to influence your team culture. Let’s look at the first one.
The human body and brain functions best when you consume whole real foods full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre. Your body is made of cells that can only be formed from the food you consume.
We all know that eating well is important for health and wellbeing over the long-term. Have you ever considered the significant impact food has on day-to-day performance?
Whole foods lead to steady blood-sugar levels, keeping you alert and focused, whereas processed food will send you on a blood-sugar rollercoaster, leading to energy slumps, low mood and an inability to concentrate. Not a great outcome when working on a key project, dealing with vital facts and figures, or heading into an important client meeting.
Should you care about what your staff eat? The answer is a resounding yes.
It can be directly undermining your team’s ability to think straight!
While some companies are making great inroads already, many modern workplaces still have a very poor nutritional landscape. You get to shape what’s called ‘choice architecture’, which operates on the principle that most people will select the default option, because it’s the easiest choice to make.
Think about the food choices most readily available in your workplace. If chips, cookies and processed bars are the first thing staff walk past, it makes sense they’ll consume more of them. Having vending machines or office food boxes with these items sends a non-verbal message that you condone or even encourage staff to eat these things. Instead, make healthy choices the easy option by making them the most accessible.
A lot of larger workplaces have a subsidised staff café, which gives a lot of control over the food on offer. Will you serve mostly soups and salads or mostly chips and pizza? What options do you cater at staff events?
Studies show that the ‘food environment’ in workplaces can have a significant positive impact on maintaining a healthy diet. Workplaces also have social networks of people who can provide support to one another as they work towards common healthy goals, increasing their chance of success.
HOW TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY AND MOOD THROUGH FOOD
IDEAS FOR LEADERS
- Do an audit of your nutritional landscape. What options are available on-site and nearby for those that purchase their meals?
- Replace unhealthy vending machines or office boxes with healthier, whole food choices.
- If you have a staff cafeteria, review the menu in consultation with staff and make gradual changes. Consider subsidising healthier options to make them more attractive.
- If you don’t have a staff cafeteria, consider setting up a delivery service from a local salad bar or whole food café.
- Provide a pleasant dining space with plenty of natural lighting and indoor/outdoor flow if possible, so people have an inviting place to relax and recharge.
- Ensure there’s ample fridge and cupboard space for staff to have healthy options onsite. Have clear labelling and guidelines on use of the space.
- Create a communal garden. If space is limited, start with herbs and a few salad greens.
- Cater healthy food at staff events, or at a minimum, offer healthy options. This is especially important for training sessions when you want people’s brains to be well-fuelled. You may wish to avoid radical overnight changes to prevent a backlash, but over time, swap out less healthy items for better options.
- Provide a fruit bowl, smoothie station or salad bar for staff.
- Have chilled, filtered water and a range of herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee available rather than only caffeinated drinks.
- Set up a shared soup day where you have a soup starter in a slow cooker every Wednesday and staff are encouraged to bring a vegetable to add in the morning. At midday, enjoy a shared lunch together.
- Share ideas and encourage recipe swaps with team members.
IDEAS FOR INDIVIDUALS
- Follow the tips I shared in Chapter 4 to save time and increase your real food intake.
- Prepare flipped salads on the weekend for the week ahead. These are individual mason jars or containers with the vinaigrette at the bottom then the salad ingredients layered on top with any salad greens added last (so they won’t spoil in the dressing). Take one each day and flip out onto a plate for an instant dressed salad.
- Alternatively, you could keep a jar of vinaigrette at the office and set aside a portion of your vegetables while preparing dinner as a salad ready for the next day’s lunch.
- Keep eggs, canned fish, raw nuts or a quality cereal on hand at the office as an easy high-protein snack when you need it.
- Start a lunch club with a few colleagues where you each have a set day of the week. (e.g. Sam brings quiche on Monday, Tim brings salad on Tuesday, Sacha brings lasagne on Wednesday and you bring wraps on Thursday. Friday is a flexi day.) This is a fun way to build connection as well as being a great time and money saver for you all.
- Have a personal rule to never eat at your desk. Enjoy the change of scene and eat mindfully, so you feel more satisfied from your meal and more refreshed when you dive back into work.
And if you’d like to improve staff wellbeing at your workplace feel free to download a copy of my eBook 5 Keys to a Positive, Energised, High-Performance Culture here.
Lauren Parsons is an award-winning Wellbeing Specialist with over 20 years’ experience, who helps leaders boost both staff wellbeing and productivity. Named both ‘Keynote Speaker of the Year’ and ‘Educator of the Year’ in 2023, she is a sought-after speaker, coach and consultant.
TEDx speaker, author of Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams, and Real Food Less Fuss, founder of the Snack on Exercise movement and host of the Thrive TV Show.Based in rural Manawatu with her husband, 3 children and a menagerie of animals, Lauren travels regularly and specialises in helping organisations create a positive, energised team culture, where people thrive. Get your complimentary copy of her eBook “5 Keys to a Positive, Energised, High-Performance Culture.”
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