Creating a working environment that supports good nutrition is good for employees and employers.
Most people eat at least one meal at work every day, so it is important that work environments help rather than hinder making food choices that are healthy and nutritious. This is particularly critical for people who work long hours, in physically demanding jobs, and may be far away from home, whether on construction sites, in factories, or on farms.
To date, a lot of the literature around workforce nutrition focuses on interventions and policies in corporate office settings, often in high-income countries, many as a component to health and wellness programmes. Studies look at small nudges that can shift employee behaviour, as well as re-thinking the types of food that are made available on site (whether in cafeterias/canteens, communal kitchens or vending machines). While there are important lessons to be learned from these initiatives, we need more tested examples on what employers in low- and middle-income countries can do to make safe and nutritious food options more available during working hours – and how governments can support and enforce these programmes.
What are the ways in which the public and private sectors can come together to identify a common understanding and approach to workforce nutrition – what does it mean, what are the most effective interventions, who pays and who benefits?
Top resources we think matter
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Unilever, and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) partnered to improve the nutrition and hygiene practices of 300,000 tea farmers and workers in tea estates in Tamil Nadu and Assam (India), Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. This case study illustrates the unique opportunity that businesses have to improve the health of their employees across supply chains where malnutrition may be most persistent. Personal perspectives suggested the programme reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs as well as increased loyalty to tea factories/suppliers.
In partnership with the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU) at the University of Cambridge, IGD carried out a large-scale experiment to assess the most effective interventions to encourage employees to make healthy food choices. The experiment involved 17,000 people, 19 workplace restaurants, and 14 major food and grocery employers. The report offers tips and strategies to support three main areas change: offer a balanced choice; reduce portion sizes; and provide calorie information. The report also includes a longer list of lessons learned, as well as Q&As with some of the companies who took part in the experiment to share their experiences.