You’ve probably heard by now that many companies (like Google, Zappos and Microsoft to name a few) are offering free food on their campuses for employees. While this may seem like a luxurious or unnecessary perk for employees, these companies are actually onto something important and potentially profitable and it impacts team productivity.
Recent studies find that 70 percent of Americans over 20 are overweight. Of that 70 percent, 38 percent are obese. This costs organizations approximately $1,429 more per employee each year in healthcare costs that includes time away from work. These absences reduce team productivity. By encouraging a healthy food lifestyle for their employees, employers reason that they will pay less per employee each year, improve team productivity and improve employee health. This is a reasoned win for everyone.
Team productivity improves with better food choices.
Reduced healthcare costs are just one factor for improved profitability. Improved team productivity is another.
Food directly impacts cognitive performance. This means that a wise lunch choice leads to a productive afternoon. An unhealthy alternative like a candy bar out of a vending machine or some French fries can completely derail productivity for the rest of the day.
This is because the food we eat converts to glucose, which provides the energy we need to stay focused. When glucose is running low, our minds have a difficult time staying focused and productive. So if you go too long without food, your energy drops and your productivity suffers.
When you grab a candy bar from a vending machine or a quick bite at the drive-through, productivity is set back. This is because not all foods are processed equally by our bodies. Some foods, like carbohydrates, pasta, bread, French fries and candy bars release glucose quickly, providing a quick burst of energy that is soon followed by a drop in energy. High fat meals, like cheeseburgers, offer more sustained energy, but they tend to make us groggy because they require the digestive system to work harder, which reduces the oxygen levels in the brain. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, provide the added benefit of antioxidants that enhance mood, improve memory and reduce inflammation, making for an ideal midday option.
Intuitively most of us know this about food. We know which meals sustain us and which leave us hungry again in an hour. So why do we choose foods that aren’t going to allow us to be our most productive?
The answer is probably one of several reasons:
- Fried and fatty foods tend to appear to be more appetizing when you’re mentally drained;
- Salt and sugar cravings increase with stress.
- A quick stop at a drive-through is usually faster than finding a healthier option; and,
- Unhealthy foods are typically cheaper than their healthy counterparts, which people on minimum wage and tight budgets often settle for.
So even if employees know that a healthy option would be better for them, convenience, stress, cost or taste may sway their decision in the opposite direction.
How does business rectify the bottom line and team productivity?
Many employers are tapping into health and cost saving strategies. They offer healthy and free food options in the cafeteria to keep their employees well-fed, better budgeted and productive.
In our book, TIGERS Among Us, we provide Zappos as a case study on employee heath and team productivity. One reason why Zappos offers healthy food for employees to team build.
Employees specify their food preferences for the following week and then the company has Whole Foods deliver the supplies. The food is stocked in a commercial-size refrigerator in the employee break room. Employees are then encouraged to make meals in teams, such as pizza using prepared pizza dough and chosen toppings. Three Zappos initiatives are satisfied:
- Team building;
- Employee health; and,
- Improved team productivity.
The company also provides large amounts of free bottled water for their employees because dehydration is an issue at their location in Henderson, Nevada, which is a suburb of Las Vegas.
Some other companies like Google take it a step further and offer additional meals and snacks on the premises. Companies that provide a good breakfast along with lunch and snacks ensure that their employees are eating healthy while subsidizing lower income earnings in high property value communities. It helps employees to also be more creative and engaged during working hours and contributes to employee loyalty.
As with Zappos, opportunity to team build is also important as group meals encourage cross pollination of ideas and strategies from different department perspectives. When companies like these need to create a quick team for agile initiatives, much of the teaming work is already done. Employees already know one another, have broken bread together and are more committed to their workplace relationships.
The bottom line is that when employee health is important, employees are not viewed as a cost but rather as an asset that must be maintained and kept in good performance order. So instead of employees heading off to a vending machine to power up with sugar, carbs and empty calories, many companies have started to offer protein snacks, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy breakfast and lunch options. This encourages healthy eating habits, which in-turn boosts team productivity, creativity and engagement in the workplace.
Care to dig deeper into this conversation?
The following articles and resources contribute more information to the conversation:
- Employers get serious about feeding workers healthier food
- What You Eat Affects Your Productivity
- Book: TIGERS Among Us – Winning Business Team Cultures and Why They Thrive
Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton
About TIGERS Success Series, Inc.
We specialize in training your managers in group facilitation methods that build workforce cooperation and high performance team dynamics. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance grows, our proprietary Team Behavior Profile and Management training workshops are based on the six principles we have found to be the right mix to make this happen.
The TIGERS 6 Principles are Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk and Success. Born from our many years of business, psychology, and educational group dynamic research, and subsequent four years of independent evaluation, we instill and sustain behaviors that improve work group performance and talent retention for measurable ROI.
TIGERS serves committed leaders who desire enhanced cooperation among departments, teams, managers and individual employees. This heightened level of cooperation leads to improved revenue, purpose, commitment and impact. Employees quit companies because they don’t get along with leaders and co-workers. Work culture refinement and behaviors that build strong relationships erase this trend in fully measurable ways.
For more information or to request a presentation to your group or association, call 1+877-538-2822.