‘You can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to be healthy to have a healthy performance.’
The sugar trap
I remember when I was working in a large corporate in London. We were told in management meetings to motivate our team by bringing treats into the office. One of the other managers in another office always bragged in the meetings about how she brought donuts in every Friday and how much her team loved her for it. I always thought, “Really….donuts is the last thing I want to eat. Even the thought of them makes me feel sick. What will I do to motivate my team? I do not want to bring in sugary treats.” The culture was all about sugary treats for motivation, and I was at a loss as to what to do.
Take a different approach
What I have realised throughout my career when working with many corporates is that there are so many different ways we can motivate our teams to keep going and show perseverance, and bringing in unhealthy treats is not always the most powerful. We must remember to cater to the needs of the individuals on our team. I try to take a positive approach to motivating my teams with a strong focus on productivity. What can I do to make my team productive and keep going?
What research says
I know myself that when I consume a lot of carbohydrates, I feel sluggish, weary, and want to sleep. According to this research, a high carbohydrate diet has a significant impact on brain tryptophan levels and serotonin production. This indicates that eating a lot of carbohydrates in one sitting reduces productivity drastically and quickly. Your mood and capacity to focus are dramatically influenced, resulting in fluctuations and a decrease in your ability to be productive and accomplish activities.
Wow! That is interesting, especially if we are ‘motivating’ our team by bringing donuts and treats into the office. How is this kind gesture really affecting our team’s ability to work well, focus, be productive, and feel good about themselves?
So, what can we do about this in the workplace?
Here are 3 steps to stimulate your team’s perseverance and productivity with healthy eating.
1. Develop a culture of healthy eating.
Actively promote healthy eating habits within your teams. Rather than imposing strict rules, let us set a positive example and cultivate an environment that embraces nutritious choices. Whether it’s team treats, lunches, or breakfasts, make a conscious effort to include healthier options. Relying solely on sugary donuts, bacon sandwiches, or indulgent chocolates and biscuits can inadvertently lead our team to sluggishness and reduced productivity.
When I am training face-to-face, I often encounter breakfast, snacks, and lunch provided by companies. Surprisingly, many companies still opt for carbohydrate-loaded foods, which can be counterproductive for sustained performance. By consciously encouraging balanced and nourishing choices, we can empower our teams to thrive and excel in their endeavors.
2. Keep fruit, nuts, and other healthy options around the office to boost energy throughout the day. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the comments people make when someone chooses these healthy snacks. By avoiding microaggressions—comments that may appear innocent but can compound and make people feel self-conscious about their food choices—you can prevent unintentionally inhibiting healthy eating. Make it the ‘norm’ that healthy eating is part of the culture at your organisation so people do not feel self-conscious, which results in a more vibrant and inclusive workplace.
3. Consider the working hours of your team. If your team members frequently arrive home late or have meals at irregular times, either at home or with colleagues, they might end up going to bed on a full stomach. Such eating habits can significantly impact the quality of their sleep. Disrupted sleep caused by discomfort from consuming heavy meals too close to bedtime can lead to decreased performance the following day. As managers, it’s crucial to be mindful of these factors and encourage healthier eating patterns and mindful meal timing to support better sleep and optimise their performance at work.
Another factor to consider is the prevalence of eating disorders and we can spot the signs in the workplace. t is critical to understand that eating disorders are more than just not eating, as many people equate them with anorexia and bulimia. These two disorders are more understood than others, although there are many distinct types of eating disorders that can manifest differently.
One that I was not aware of is Orthorexia, which is the unhealthy focus on healthy eating. This seems to be a contradiction of words.
In the modern world, so many people are so focused on eating healthily, or sometimes called ‘clean eating’, that it can become unhealthy. This can occur for both men and women.
We need to spot the signs of Orthorexia and all eating disorders in the workplace. Supporting those around us is essential. Being aware as managers is the first step to a healthier work environment.
Maintaining a healthy body and living a healthy lifestyle can boost your team’s perseverance and productivity, allowing them to perform with greater determination and motivation. The synergy between physical health and perseverance creates a foundation for success in various aspects of life, supporting personal growth and achievement.
How can we help you as a manager?
Finding out about eating disorders and how emotions and stress have a role to play can give you a better understanding of the issues. In our Mental Health Chats YouTube episode, Vicky Midwood talks about Eating Disorders and how to manage them to be healthier and happier in your own body.
You can also watch this Mental Health Chats interview with Alex Cross, where Alex explains what living with bulimia and orthorexia looks like. He also shares how in his 20s he had a very unhealthy obsession with healthy food—this stemmed from the pressures of growing up as a young male and feeling like he didn’t fit in.