It’s no secret that workplaces are stressful. Research presented at the Workplace Wellness Summit this week claims up to 85% of professional women – particularly the Millennial generation – are currently suffering some form of burnout.

The World Health Organisation classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” characterised by three things:
– Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
– Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
– Reduced professional efficacy.

In other words, workplace stress is impacting on personal wellness, and in particular, energy levels and mental health.

Here at Appetite Communications, we believe nutrition has an important work health and safety role – and our team has come up with easy, evidence-based ways workplaces can support healthier eating and help staff avoid burnout.

Good nutrition supports people’s wellbeing and health at work

Workplaces – especially those with a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture – have a role to play supporting their staff in making choices that prevent burnout.

Some workplaces – like Google and Canva – have on-site catering as a staff benefit which offers excellent opportunities for nutrition support through quality food and drinks for employees. These types of workplaces can offer food and drink which support microbiome diversity and help prevent burnout, such as:

  • Having plenty of plant-based high fibre food available. Meals should be filled with lots of vegetables, legumes and wholegrains like quinoa, farro and barley.
  • Cooking or making salad dressings with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It’s got heart health and brain health benefits and is recommended as part of the Mediterranean diet known to support a healthy microbiome.
  • Making small changes like swapping refined carbs like white rice, white pasta and couscous with their wholegrain equivalents – toss through salads, pasta dishes and poke bowls.
  • Exploring probiotic and prebiotic food and drink choices. For example, probiotics from fermented foods like yoghurt, Yakult & Kombucha & prebiotics from foods like legumes, rye and bananas.
  • Combining tasty convenient options with an appealing place to sit and share food can help remove distraction and encourage mindful eating. Sharing meals with others can help employees connect with each other and improve internal happiness.

Creating a healthy gut creates a healthier mind

All workplaces – regardless of whether they offer free food or not – can support their staff’s overall wellbeing by leveraging some of the simple new research we know about supporting a diverse and healthy microbiome in the human body.

We know so much more than we used to about the gut-brain connection. It makes sense for workplaces to offer nutritional support by doing simple things like:

  • Offering a range of herbal tea – great source of polyphenols like green tea, lemongrass tea or Matcha – along with the regular supplies of coffee and black tea.
  • Offering fermented drinks like Kombucha, which  contain probiotics to help support diverse gut flora and a healthier microbiome.
  • Ensuring staff have access to high fibre plant-based foods – and if that means developing relationships for preferred caterers or having a weekly fruit and veg box delivered, then maybe it’s time to start the conversation.
  • Instead of serving mints or lollies at the conference or boardroom tables, offer nuts or trail mix. You can even get these at Officeworks now.
  • Create a separate lunch or meal room where people can eat lunch or snacks together. Eating in the company of family, friends, or colleagues increases the enjoyment of food.
  • Offering simple motivational education and guidance around the benefits of good nutrition to support brain and gut health. Books like the CSIRO’s Healthy Gut Diet, Michael Mosley’s Clever Guts Diet or Felice Jacka’s Brain Changer might be worth lending out to interested staff.

Sean Hall, the founder of Energx, who spoke at the Workplace Wellness Summit and did the research do discover up to 85% of us are feeling burned out, believes we must manage energy – rather than our time – better. He says there are four keys to this:

FUEL: We are energised when we are conscious of food, exercise, how we sleep and recover. We can choose how we feed and fuel ourselves.

FIRE: Fire is the energy that lights us up and allows us to use our strengths to do something meaningful. Without good fuel, there is no fire.

FEELING: Is our relationship with ourselves and how compassionate we are about looking after ourselves when things get tough.

FOCUS: To create more energy, we must make the space for fuel, fire and feeling to add value to our lives. We need to focus on doing more of what energises it, and less of what depletes us. Yep, that means speaking up to remove the energy vampires in your life …

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If we take Sean’s 4 F’s approach to managing energy, then nutrition and what we feed ourselves plays a key role in every piece of the puzzle.

Hippocrates apparently claimed that ‘All disease begins in the gut’ more than 2000 years ago. With all the new research into microbiota and brain-gut health, maybe Hippocrates was right …

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