Why being Mindful matters: eat, work and live well at the office

Published on : 10/3/22
  • Office lunches used to be something employees did between work; managers hardly saw them as productivity enablers, until now. Today, more companies are realising how tasty, nutritious food at work can help improve morale, increase productivity and attract talent—even offset healthcare costs in the long run.

    people eating

    A few things may explain this workplace food awakening. Let’s start with millennials: employees born between 1981 and 1996 will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. They’ve also mainstreamed a “foodie culture” that drives awareness of meals’ nutritional value and ethical implications. To millennials, food at work is more than just a perk: it’s part of an overall wellness package. 

    Ongoing research has also confirmed the link between office productivity and a good meal: an International Labour Organisation study found that adequate nourishment improves national productivity levels by 20%; “a 1% kilocalorie (kcal) increase results in a 2.27% increase in general labour productivity.”

    A missed opportunity

    Many offices are now rising to the challenge. Office-based culinary initiatives are on the rise across the world, latching onto good food as a practical yet effective way to increase workplace productivity and worker loyalty. 

    In a recent GrabFood consumer survey, 76% of employees chose food allowance as their most preferred workplace benefit. Half of all respondents to a recent U.S. Harris Poll survey chose free food and snacks as a top workplace benefit.

    No surprise, then, that many of Singapore’s biggest companies put free meals front-and-centre in their list of office perks. But even that doesn’t go far enough: few workplaces offer healthy options, an oversight which may have negative effects on workplace performance and costs in the long run. 

    Employees spend at least a third of their day focusing on their jobs. That’s a lot of time and attention that employers can use to promote healthier eating habits. Executives are missing a golden opportunity to wean employees away from bad habits that impact productivity; a U.S. study found that absences caused by chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, and obesity were costing American employers US$36.4 billion a year. 

    Mindful eating for long-term health


    For Sodexo, guiding workplaces to better health choices is all in a day’s work. 

    Over ten million customers rely on Sodexo’s food services daily. Given its long record serving corporations, schools, government offices and long-term care facilities, Sodexo sees good health as a major responsibility it owes its customers, and has developed the Mindful food philosophy to see it through. 

    Mindful is about making it an easy choice for customers to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. It’s expressed through three principles—Eating, Living and Community—that address the relationship between food, its consumers, and the broader community. 

    Eating: promoting health from the plate

    Eating focuses on the food on the customer’s plate: managing recipes, service models and menus to ensure that food is not just delicious, but safe and healthy as well. 

    In practice, this means a thorough, evidence-based application of international health guidelines, and communicating healthier choices clearly to customers. 

    Diners at Sodexo cafeterias learn to make healthy eating choices through the Singapore Health Promotion Board’s My Healthy Plate visual guide, and build their own balanced meals through Sodexo’s proprietary Food Traffic Lights guide. Sodexo nutritionists monitor and ensure food safety, including the provision of allergen-free meals. 

    Several Sodexo dining outlets in Singapore participate in the Health Promotion Board’s Healthier Dining Programme, a government initiative to increase the availability and accessibility of healthier dining options. 

    Living: a long-term lifestyle

    on the call

    Living explores the relationship between customers and food: helping diners think long-term about the connection between food and wellness, to consider healthy dining as part of their lifestyle. 

    A centrally-planned nutrition and wellness calendar plots out healthy eating campaigns, talks, webinars, workshops and cooking demos throughout the year, which can be rolled out to clients that ask for them. 

    One location might schedule a cooking demo to trial healthy recipes, like Sodexo’s recent visit to the Unilever office for a “Tasting and Innovation” session serving the latest plant-based menus. Another location might set up a webinar to share tips on budget healthy eating, such as the recently-concluded session hosted for Singapore charity Daughters Of Tomorrow.

    The calendar also sets aside themed weeks, where Sodexo can educate customers about healthy eating and living; and provide incentives like the Mindful 10,000-step challenge aimed at corporate accounts that pools donations for charity.

    Community: reducing one’s carbon footprint


    Finally, Community expands the scope of Mindful to the rest of society: demonstrating how healthier choices can help everyone become better stewards of the planet. 

    For instance, Mindful has set a target to increase its plant-based menu offerings to 33% by 2025. To put this in practice, they’ve partnered with award-winning chefs like Bjorn Shen to conceptualise and execute plant-based menus for Sodexo customers.

    Sodexo also produces its own sustainable products, such as their Linda healthy vegetable cooking oil and their in-house coffee brand Aspretto, serving fair-trade coffee. All ingredients prioritise safety, quality, proximity and sustainability to ensure that food sources are rigorously tested and ethically acquired. 

    A Mindful nutrition and wellness plan will improve your workplace’s productivity