Part 1: Food for Thought, Healthy Habits in the Office

The Link between Food, Productivity and Wellness

healthy habits in the office

January can begin with promises of new, healthier routines, including healthy habits in the office that are often long forgotten by spring. In the HLW London office, we hoped to shake-up this sleepwalk back into unhealthy (and unproductive) practices. We hosted a quarterly knowledge sharing Discovery Session on the subject of food and its link to wellbeing in the workplace.

Our “Food for Thought” event on February 26 brought together influential industry experts to discuss and debate the connection between cuisine, health, and the work environment. We discovered that both big and small changes can make a huge difference in the vigor and happiness of employees. We learned how specifically food and work productivity are intrinsically linked. Much emphasis was placed on the importance of considering broad issues of productivity, community, and wellness, as part of the design process.

In this post and in the upcoming installments, we will discuss innovative solutions for integrating food into the workplace.

Food and Work Productivity

Employers often recognize the link between wellness and productivity, referencing any number of major studies and articles conducted by health advocacy organizations, but the link specifically between food and work productivity? It is important to consider the long-term impact to a company’s bottom line when gauging how design choices around foodservice may impact an organization’s most important assets, its people, which typically makeup 90% of expenditures. The outlay of funds for investing in the wellbeing of employees exceeds, by far, the usual costs associated with a building’s energy consumption and infrastructure upgrades and replacements. Encouraging healthy eating habits can help reduce employee related expenses.

For additional information about sickness absence in the labor market, click here.

Harnessing Social Trends in Food: Health and Socializing

From cuisine to fashion and art to business and design, concepts that begin to trend in one area often filter through to other areas, influencing both conversation and practice. So, what will be the big social trends in food in the coming year? We did some digging and unearthed a few unexpected, as well as more predictable, threads. Two ideas intrinsic to food stand out—health and socializing.

According to world renowned London chef Rose Lloyd Owen, owner of Peardrop, more “root to stalk cooking, such as carrot-top pesto and chips made from the outer leaves of sprouts, is trending. This food fad is also representative of a more sustainable outlook in cooking. “We throw away far too much!” said Owen in a recent article. Among more progressive foodies, healthy eating is now intrinsically connected to sustainable practices.

The same elements of thoughtfulness, care, and environmental responsibility apparent in foodie circles are also making headway within the design community. Apropos to a discussion about food in the workplace, the underlying principles that are inherent in root to stalk cooking are associated with cradle-to-cradle design thinking. This concept of applying “lifecycle thinking” at the whole-building and product level is key to a more sustainable and honest way of designing, as well as a centerpiece of the new LEED v4. Whether pertaining to architecture or the food we eat, this approach is ultimately about the responsible and dynamic use of resources. Upcycling is a valuable component of a holistic, efficient, and waste free system, and a material’s life-span, which includes the supply chain through the decommissioning process and beyond, is as important a consideration as any when designing foodservice facilities.

The prevalence of dining options focused on the social aspects of breaking bread together is an additional trend to consider within the context of food in the workplace. The popularity of Tapas, Izakaya meals, and Anju Style dining are just a few examples of cuisines designed to encourage conversation using small plates, traditionally, paired with alcohol. The formality of a full course dinner is relinquished in favor of the communal possibilities of conversing, standing, and even moving about while eating. A similar model (perhaps, sans the alcohol) is being tried in the workplace.

By encouraging social exchanges at work, employers benefit from increased employee satisfaction (and, ultimately, increased employee retention) due to the strengthening of personal bonds and an overall sense of belonging to a community. The introduction of food to help facilitate a heightened experience of enjoyment and investment at work is paving the way for new, unexpected, and inventive thought leadership in workplace design. Many people enjoy an informal, collaborative approach to working, similar to the new popular dining trends. From a design point of view, this means constantly pushing our thinking in terms of what a working space could be. It’s also about having a poly-vocal approach, considering the value of multiple viewpoints, when developing a concept, working through a design, or interacting with others both within and outside our industry.

Promoting a Healthy Work Environment

A business (as well as individuals) can take practical steps toward promoting a healthy work environment. In our next post in this three-part series, we will examine how food “influencers,” factors that affect foodservice strategies, can encourage healthy eating practices at work.

social trends in food