How does culture fit into the healthy eating picture? Culture refers to a set of traditions/customs and overall values of a community. It’s usually used to refer to a a greater population. However we can down size this picture and apply it to healthy culture within a workplace. And this is where the real work begins. Work culture defines the values of a business, and dictates their productivity and ultimately success. A positive workplace culture leads to ¬†growth, employee satisfaction and dedication. Unfortunately, the HEALTH culture of many workplaces has fallen by the wayside to give way to a ‘busyness’ which appears to be driving increasingly high rates of overweight and obesity. We are more likely to make poor food choices when we are tired and stress, moreover, we are more likely to snack, and mindlessly so, when we are at work.

The problem is that not looking after your health, both in the workplace and in the home, can and will increase the rates of absenteeism, and reduction of productivity which ultimately will reduce the bottom line of a business. Research supports the healthy body healthy mind paradigm and yet it appears we are expected to give up a portion of our well-being to go to work…But I am going to call BS on this. It is one of the most obvious examples of false economy, but to appear to be busy, but not necessarily productive, is a hallmark of a good worker.

Bragging about busy seems to be a badge of honour, but how sustainable is this behaviour?

Ask any of the most successful people in the world (many of whom have been interviewed on the recipe for success) and a large portion have reported that looking after their mind and body has been the keen behind their continued stellar output, focus and business success! Yes we all have times of chaos, when we have to put balance on hold to meet a deadline, but to expect this all the time of employees is a one way street to burn out and poor work output.

Creating a culture which not only allows a break in the day to stop, think, relax and digest but actively ENCOURAGES this, is a great start.

A work culture which supports healthy habits, in the knowledge that a happy healthy employee is going to be more engaged in their work, more capable of clear and critical thinking, and less likely to need to call in sick, is going to be the winner. It’s a paradigm shift away from stressed, busy and self-neglect, a culture change towards clear, health conscious, productive.

Today I am speaking at the Executive Assistants Conference on healthy eating in the workplace…It makes me think of how we ACTUALLY get workplaces to change.

We eat a large chunk of our meals here. And more often than not, we are quiet stressed at work and to boot, not usually engaged with the eating process when at work. Mindless eating is the sink hole for many a sugary calorie. Creating a culture which not only allows a break in the day to stop, think, relax and digest but actively ENCOURAGES this, is a great start. I have heard way too many people report that their workplaces simply don’t do lunch. Busy happens, I get it, but the problem is, if you are not taking the small steps to ‘do’ lunch, i.e. eat and only eat, then it is quite possible that this will translate to health problems bigger and more time consuming than that deadline that got in the way.

20 minutes to take a walk, 10 minute to sit and eat. A few smaller breaks away from the screen to stretch and have a mental break. getting rid of the long sit down meetings, bi-weekly cake fests, top draw choc stash, 10am banana breads, 3pm Freddo Frogs and adding in walking catch ups, bring a healthy recipe morning tea’s, healthy snack options, and designated break out times to rest and digest are small changes, but ones which have to happen across the board, as a part of a greater workplace culture change. It can be done alone, but is much easier if embarked upon together. Your own home is a great place to start, but your second home, is the other place to look to in order to get meaningful change.

Health culture in the workplace. Think about it.

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Harriet Walker
Harriet Walker resides in Canberra ACT and leads a busy working life as Nutritionist and Dietitian, Personal and Trainer and also for the Physical Activity Foundation - [More Kids - More Active - More Often] implementing activity programs and healthy messages throughout ACT Schools. Harriet is also a regular feature writer on numerous topics relating to nutrition, wellness, and fitness.