Nutrition and Hydration Week

12th March 2020

Employee health and wellbeing – eat, drink and be (more healthily) merry

Whether it’s lunchtime “desk dining”, stress-based comfort eating, or grabbing an unhealthy takeout on the way home because you’re working late (again), employers can carry much of the blame for poor employee nutrition and hydration. With national Nutrition and Hydration Week taking place this month, this is therefore a great moment to step back and think about how, as a workplace, you can get better at promoting healthier diet and nutrition habits.

Next week, March 16-22, is national Nutrition and Hydration Week. The week, which has run since 2012, is organised by a team with a background in healthcare and catering and hospitality and is designed to promote better nutrition and hygiene habits among individuals and organisations.

At a practical level, there are a range of health promotion tools and resources that employers can tap into and use, as well as a downloadable handbook.

But, with obesity levels in the UK continuing to rise and nearly two-thirds of adults in England alone now estimated to be either obese or overweight, and the knock-on health and wellbeing consequences of this in terms of rising rates of diabetes and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, it is only right employers should be worried.

Impact on work as well as individual lives

After all, the impact of poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles is not only the limits it can put upon how we lead our lives individually, it may have a knock-on limiting effect on the physical roles and duties we can undertake at work, even on our levels of performance, attendance and productivity at work.

To that extent, while of course employers can’t force employees to live healthier lifestyles, it is important to recognise that advice and health promotion around diet, lifestyle, nutrition and hydration can be as much a workplace health as an individual health issue.

At a practical level, too, there is much employers can do. Better, healthier choices in the canteen, for example – perhaps even subsidised – and cracking down on sugary or unhealthy snacks in any vending machines. “Fresh fruit Fridays” and ready access to fruit or healthier options around the office can also be a good call.

Using resources such as Public Health England and Business in the Community’s Physical Activity, Health Eating and Healthier Weight toolkit can also be invaluable in this context.

Equally, the National Hydration Council has a useful (if not exactly new) factsheet for employers highlighting the links between effective hydration and performance, safety and even mood, especially for workers working outside or in the heat, as well as the risks of over-hydration.

Handy tips and advice

Help | Employee Assistance, too, has produced a handy factsheet to coincide with Nutrition and Hydration Week outlining three quick tips to take away. So, if nothing else, bear these in mind when considering your health promotion messages around the week: