Nutrition: A powerful tool to manage personal health and workplace stressors – Times of India

Nutrition: A powerful tool to manage personal health and workplace stressors - Times of India


Workplace stressors are an outcome of physical and emotional tensions, prompting ill health, absenteeism, and even employee turnover in some cases, leading to a detrimental impact on personal and workplace performance. While work loss is defined by absenteeism, presenteeism – which refers to being physically present but not being able to work and performing below normal capacity, is a major factor that contributes to reduced productivity, which is what most organisations are dealing with, especially in the current uncertain and hybrid work environments. Research conducted by a health management journal in the US studied presenteeism in smokers, people not eating healthy and people not exercising. They found that smokers were 28% more likely to have high presenteeism than non-smokers. Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have high presenteeism than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Employees who didn’t exercise very much were 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than employees who exercise regularly. These findings clearly demonstrate the impact that healthy eating has on presenteeism. 

Impact of Workplace Stressors

Studies have substantiated that the overall cost of the impact of workplace stressors on outcomes such as presenteeism far exceeds the employee healthcare costs. There is abundant evidence that suggests that optimal nutrition can help overcome stress and benefit both physical and mental health. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart ailments and other lifestyle diseases are the highest, even in young adults these days. Unfortunately, the role nutrition plays in managing personal well-being and dealing with workplace stressors often gets sidelined during conversations regarding workplace wellness, despite it being a key driver in dealing with vulnerabilities like chronic health conditions. Nutrition, with its transformative capabilities, can improve productivity and build resilience. A well-nourished body results in a happy demeanor, fostering individual well-being and performance, thus also impacting workplace wellness. 

Managing Stress and Energy with Nutrition and the role organisations can play

To effectively manage one’s level of stress and energy, it is extremely important to manage what we consume. One must avoid eating dietary stressors like excessive sugar, caffeinated drinks, oily food etc., which are often the prime stimulants of headaches and fatigue in the long run. While it may be difficult to completely cut down on long-standing habits and rituals, they can certainly be replaced by healthier alternatives, such as enjoying natural fruits, instead of desserts rife with crystallized sugar. Having a proper eating routine helps to manage energy levels, effectiveness and personal productivity.  Eating whole foods that provide sustained energy throughout the day like whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, maximizes energy, and alertness, and builds resilience. 

While managing individual nutrition is not something in complete control of an organisation, there are multiple steps an organisation can take to encourage healthy eating habits among employees. In addition to organising awareness sessions or providing access to nutritionists to guide the employees, organisations can also model this behaviour in the programs they organise. In fact, good trainers insist that companies serve healthy lunches during day-long workshops and work programs to ensure effectiveness and a measurable impact on training outcomes at workplaces. Nudging healthy eating habits through messages, the snacks companies keep in their canteens, and also creating work environments that provide physical and psychological safety have an incredible overall impact on employee health.

Eating nutritious food and making sensible lifestyle decisions can go a long way in avoiding and even reversing the onset of lifestyle diseases at early stages. Foods like sweet potato are known to calm neurotransmitters, leading to the release of serotonin and melatonin, which are known to calm the mind and induce sleep. A healthy sleeping cycle, when combined with a nutrient-rich diet, can work wonders on the overall health of an individual and also how energetic one feels.  Last but not the least, we should also be mindful of what we consume digitally, the environment we are in at home and workplace and the people we spend time with. In addition, the food we eat, what we read, the time we spend with nature, and the company we keep, contribute immeasurably to our health and wellbeing.

Among multiple factors that are not in our control, nutrition is something that is completely in our hands and is one of the most powerful tools that we have, to ensure holistic wellbeing and manage workplace stressors. 



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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About the Author: Eugene Berry