Understanding the Hidden Costs of Poor Employee Nutrition

In today’s fast-paced work environment, the significance of proper nutrition often gets overlooked. Many employees, pressed for time and convenience, resort to unhealthy food choices that can have profound consequences on their health and productivity. As a result, businesses might see a decline in overall workforce efficiency and an increase in health-related costs.

Understanding the critical connection between nutrition and workplace performance is essential for any organization aiming to foster a healthy, productive and satisfied workforce. In this blog, we delve into the impacts of poor nutrition on employees, examining how inadequate dietary habits can lead to physical health issues, mental health challenges, decreased productivity and increased absenteeism. 

What Does “Poor Nutrition” Mean? 

There are two types of nutrients the human body needs: macronutrients and micronutrients. There are three macronutrients—protein, fat and carbohydrates—and multiple micronutrients, which include the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. The macros provide fuel for the body to function, while micros help carry out important bodily functions. 

When a person doesn’t get an adequate amount of both micronutrients and macronutrients, they can become malnourished, which can lead to a number of physical, mental and emotional concerns. 

The Impacts of Nutrition on Physical Health 

Poor nutrition, or malnourishment, can result in many physical consequences. In fact, diet plays a big role in a number of chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Beyond contributing to chronic conditions, a lack of micronutrients can result in various illnesses. After all, your immune system relies on these vitamins and minerals to function. And when a person’s immune system isn’t working at full capacity, it often means an increased risk of acute illnesses, as well as longer recovery times. This can result in employees requiring additional sick days and higher levels of absenteeism. 

The Impact of Nutrition on Employee Focus 

We all know that the foods we eat impact our energy levels. Everyone has had at least one experience where they ate a meal high in fats, sugar or simple carbs and then wanted to take a nap after a short burst of energy. On the other hand, after eating a meal consisting of lean proteins, fruits, veggies and whole grains, you might have felt like you could run a marathon. 

That’s why it’s essential for your employees to have healthy, filling options throughout the day. If they pick up fast food for lunch, they might not be as focused or productive in the afternoon as they could be. And while this may be ok for a day or two, if this becomes a regular occurrence for multiple team members, your company’s output can fall over time. 

Additionally, if your team works in potentially dangerous situations, it’s essential that they remain 100% focused at all times. If they start to get tired after lunch, you may experience an increase in workplace accidents and workers’ compensation claims.

The Hidden Costs of Workplace Absenteeism & Presenteeism 

Absenteeism: When an employee has to take time off of work due to personal or familial illness

Presenteeism: When an employee goes in to work despite being sick and works at a lower level of productivity than normal 

According to Kaiser Permanente Business, “Productivity losses linked to absenteeism and presenteeism from chronic illnesses and injuries cost U.S. employers $2,945 per employee per year. That number includes sick days, short-term disability, long-term disability and impaired job performance.” 

Since nutrition has such a substantial impact on a person’s health, providing healthy food options to employees can help save your company money in the long run. 

How Nutrition Impacts Employee Morale and Retention

Did you know that the foods you eat have a direct impact on your mood? This is due to the gut-brain connection. Essentially, the bacteria in the gut microbiome are responsible for creating certain neurotransmitters that impact our overall moods. These bacteria thrive off of prebiotic and probiotic fuel, which can be found in whole and minimally processed foods, while sugar and other highly processed foods can increase inflammation and reduce the amount of neurotransmitters the microbiome produces. 

In fact, according to Harvard Health, “Studies have compared ‘traditional’ diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical ‘Western’ diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.”

Mood disorders, like depression, can have a major impact on employee retention at your company. Therefore, giving your employees the resources they need to live healthy, happy lives can result in reduced turnover rates for your company. One of the best ways to encourage your employees to eat for their mental health is by providing free or low-cost business dining options that focus on whole foods and fresh options. 

The Financial Implications of Poor Nutrition for Employers 

Beyond the indirect costs of absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover, poor employee nutrition can also have direct costs to your bottom line. Employee healthcare costs increase when individuals have chronic conditions related to nutrition. 

According to the CDC, “A systematic review of 56 published studies of worksite health programs showed that well-implemented workplace health programs can lead to 25% savings each on absenteeism, health care costs and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.”

Business Dining Solutions and Their Impact on ROI 

While investing in a workplace nutrition program may seem like an additional expense for your company, in reality, it can net a positive ROI when you consider the impacts that healthy eating can have on your employees as well as the direct and indirect costs of poor nutrition. 

Cotton Culinary has experience developing nutritious, delectable menus that people love, and we can bring a daily meal solution to your company, whether you’re looking for a grab-and-go merchandiser or cafeteria management services. We work with companies to develop custom business dining solutions that factor in budget, meal times and dietary preferences for their employees. And with our flexible subsidy plans, companies can choose whether they’d like to contribute to a portion of an employee’s meal cost or foot the bill entirely.

If you’re interested in learning more about developing a regular, healthy dining solution for your company, contact a Cotton Culinary rep today by filling out a contact form or calling us at 281.712.9769.