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The Benefits of Creating a Health-Driven Work Culture for Your Employees Here's how leaders and employees benefit when companies invest in the health of their workforce.

By Tom Futch Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The pandemic has changed everything — for businesses, for leaders and for employees. At the height of the pandemic, we were trapped indoors, our work life was bleeding into our home life, parents were juggling virtual school with Zoom meetings, and employees were facing the added stress of not knowing how the pandemic would affect their lives and their loved ones. In this time of struggle, many companies showed their true values in how they responded to the difficulties their employees faced. And for their staff, it became a time of reckoning and reassessing what they expect from their company.

Related: What 3 Companies Are Doing to Keep Employees Healthy

What employees want

Now, 80% of employees say that having an employer who cares about their health and wellbeing will affect their future career choice. Business leaders are therefore faced with a major challenge: how to support employees in a radically altered work environment where priorities and work preferences have shifted.

Mercer recently conducted a survey with 2,000 American workers to see what they really wanted coming out of the pandemic. They found for low-wage employees, the top three concerns included covering monthly expenses, mental/emotional health and physical health and fitness. For high-wage employees, the main factors were physical health and fitness, workload/life balance and personal safety.

The key takeaway? All of these top concerns are about wellbeing. In the past, most employee concerns were about income, management, commute time and job performance expectations. Since the pandemic, however, employees are seeking companies that not only provide a livable wage, but go beyond with benefits that help employees live better.

Related: 8 Ways to Foster an Environment of Employee Wellbeing

The benefits of giving employees what they want

Recent research suggests that organizations that invest in the health of their workforce benefit from an increase in performance, and a number of case studies show that companies that value the wellbeing of their employees outperform their goals and are able to deliver roughly three times the returns to shareholders. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that healthy employees are happier, calmer, more engaged, sleep better and get sick less often, resulting in a 20% increase in national productivity levels.

Prioritizing these initiatives ensures that a company cares and facilitates the path so that people can achieve a shared goal of accomplishment; and organizations that choose to engage in a health-driven culture can benefit from a variety of positive impacts. Here, we examine a range of benefits specific to companies investing in their employees' nutrition and healthy eating routines:

  • Attract and retain talent: According to a 2018 study, having a lunch break can improve job satisfaction, efficiency and the likelihood of employees recommending their workplace to others as a great place to work.

  • Reduce stress: We've all experienced that awful mix of hungry and angry, often termed "hangry." Studies found that what you eat can help your brain produce chemicals to promote better sleep, reduce anxiety and increase feelings of calm.

  • Reduce healthcare costs: Healthcare costs are expected to reach 6.5% in 2022, due to deferred treatment resulting from Covid-19, mental health issues caused by the added stress of our current climate, and because the average employee's health has declined during the pandemic. Companies that invest in their employees' nutrition can reduce long-term healthcare costs with preventative measures.

  • Improve productivity: Skipping breakfast decreases productivity by reducing short-term memory and cognitive performance. In addition, those who eat unhealthy foods are 66% more likely to experience lowered productivity.

  • Improve performance: The brain uses about 20% of an employee's daily caloric intake, and studies show that eating more fruits and vegetables can lead to greater happiness, life satisfaction and wellbeing.

As organizations confront the ever-evolving employment landscape, one thing remains constant: Keeping your workforce connected and cared for — regardless of where, when and how they work — is key to creating a happy and healthy workplace culture. An organization is only as good as the people it employs. Those organizations that want to survive and thrive in 2022 and beyond will need to respond accordingly, looking beyond financial goals to consider the needs of all of their people. If you are what you eat, then companies are the people and practices they employ.

Tom Futch

VP, FreshlyWell

Tom Futch is the Vice President of FreshlyWell, the dedicated business arm of Freshly delivering mealtime solutions to employers, organizations and member communities across markets--from employers and healthcare systems to universities, senior living, hospitality and more.

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