During the working week, office workers eat a large proportion of their meals outside of the home. In fact, we spend a third of our lives at work. Eating food whilst out of the home might involve a trip to Pret, the supermarket, the local shop, or perhaps the work canteen.
The likes of Pret, Eat, Boots, and the supermarkets, profit from selling a wide range of ‘healthy’ foods that appeal to the various nutritional trends such as high protein/low fat, superfoods, low gluten, vegetarian, vegan, and so on. Whilst some of these offerings might be debatable from a nutritional perspective, it is certainly true that promoting health in the workplace has a number of benefits for both employers and employees.
Empirical evidence has shown that employee engagement, concentration and productivity is improved when nutritionally rich food is consumed. This in itself should come as no surprise if you imagine a time when you ate a heavy lunch and struggled to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon, as your body used huge amounts of energy to digest the food, versus a day when you went for something far lighter.
Again, this gives me pause for thought about the evolving role of Facilities Management within organisations and the organisational reliance on them to offer strategic advantage through services such as catering for not only productivity, but also retention and attraction. In the current business model, the management of catering facilities within the workplace are often outsourced to a third party. This has a number of benefits but certainly from a knowledge perspective, it means businesses can rely upon the expertise of a third party firm whose profitability relies on being up-to-date with nutritional offerings and trends in food. Yet regardless of the knowledge of the supplier, the Facilities Manager responsible for the catering contract bears the burden of knowing what should and should not be destined for the menu.
If there is a canteen, it needs to be sustainable from a commercial perspective. In some cases, the food might be subsidised for example, and in other cases it might be free. Regardless of the commercial construct, the Facilities Manager will have a role to play in ensuring the model works. There is a fine balance to strike in terms of what should be offered to employees. It must be recognised that some foods, whilst nutritionally favourable, will not be popular to the majority of employees. There will inevitably be a cohort of employees who want to eat fried food, and if it is not on offer within the canteen, they will vote with their feet and make their way to McDonalds or Burger King.
The nutritional strategy for an organisation is complex and should be considered carefully by the Facilities Manager and the outsource provider. It is increasingly being recognised that the canteen is far more than a means to an end, but a key component in the wellness of employees and therefore the overall productivity of the organisation.
Peter Forshaw – Managing Director, Maxwell Stephens.