Supporting healthy diets in the workplace

Last updated on 7 September 2023

Employees who skip lunch are more likely to suffer from reduced productivity and low energy levels as the day goes on. [Source: Shutterstock]

There are all kinds of employees when it comes to lunch options: meal preppers, leftover lovers, takeaway fanatics and your tuck shop traditionalists. Unfortunately, there may be staff members who skip lunch, forget to plan or struggle to make healthy meals due to financial reasons. Skipping lunch, or any meal, can have a serious impact on an individual’s health. 

  • Skipping meals can lead to low energy, mood swings and emotional distress
  • Lunch and meal breaks also provide an opportunity to rest and refresh during a busy day
  • Afternoon productivity is often impacted heavily when staff skip lunch as decreased energy levels also lead to reduced productivity and concentration

With the potential for poor nutrition to take a bite out of staff productivity and well-being, it’s essential employers do all they can to support and promote healthy diets in the workplace. Here’s what you can do.

Serve up a quality kitchen space

Every good meal relies on quality amenities and tools, so it’s essential to provide clean and modern kitchen facilities for your team. Not only will this support staff who want to store and eat their own lunches at work, but it gives staff who buy ingredients on the day a place to make lunch.

Your kitchen facilities should include a:

  • Fridge/freezer
  • Dishwasher
  • Kettle/automated hot water tap
  • Toaster 
  • Sandwich press/toasted sandwich maker
  • Microwave
  • All relevant utensils and crockery

You could even consider additional appliances such as an oven with a grill and stovetop, an airfryer or a blender. They would help cater to a wide range of meals to be prepared in a timely manner.

Provide healthy snacks

There’s an increased focus on providing healthy snacks as workplace well-being becomes a top priority for organisations. By giving your staff easy access to fruit and nuts – alongside other pantry staples such as tea and coffee – you’re catering to their basic needs for a healthy diet. It’s an incredibly simple way to keep workers energised throughout the day.

Depending on your location – regional organisations might have fewer options – there are several businesses that can easily deliver fruit, dairy and other kitchen staples to your premise. This includes the likes of Woolworths and Coles, while you can also consider national suppliers such as:

A number of smaller, state-based providers are also available so it’s always good to take the time and research local options if you’re looking to compare prices and services. 

Organise office meal deals

Another impactful way to support your staff’s positive eating habits is by providing prepared lunches, breakfasts or dinners. There are plenty of ways to do this, too.

You could utilise existing kitchen facilities to provide lunchtime catering to staff. This might include self-serve dishes, or meals made-to-order. Additionally, if you have an on-site cafe, there could be discounted options for staff who want to buy lunch on the day.

Other options include providing pre-made meals through a third party, such as eatfirst and hampr. They’re like your traditional meal kit providers, but everything comes ready-made for busy staff. Promoting supplied lunches would also give you a leg-up over the competition when recruiting new staff. It’s an exciting incentive and it shows you care about your staff’s health and well-being.

Offering pre-made meals may incentivise employees and applicants as they know you value diet and well-being. [Source: Shutterstock]

Encourage time away from the desk

Alongside the provision of a quality kitchen and healthy food options, a good diet should feature as part of a well-balanced workday. Therefore, you should be encouraging time away from the desk for everyone working. There should be no quick five-minute breaks or sneaky snacking on the laptop. 

If you do see employees working through lunch or eating at their desks, speak up and ask why; the odd deadline may force some employees to skip a break, but regular instances are not good. A workplace rule banning food at desks might be required if it’s a widespread problem, although it’s often better to encourage choice rather than enforce.

Offer education and support

If some members of your workforce are struggling to maintain a healthy diet, consider offering education and support options. Examples include optional educational courses like NEST (Nutrition Education Skills Training) through OzHarvest, a six-week program teaching healthy eating and affordable cooking skills. 

You can also provide educational resources and flyers in the kitchen which are handy ways to suggest new recipes, cooking tips and more. It could be the exact thing a reluctant at-home chef needs to try something new.

employee engagement
health and nutrition
healthy eating
workplace catering
employee health