Fueling the work day the right way

Staying motivated and productive at work all day can be hard, but it’s not impossible. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself – and your colleagues – fuel your day to stay at the top of your game

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Many of us are guilty of not taking breaks throughout the working day. It can be easy to fool ourselves that, just because we’re ‘busy’, we’re performing to the best of our ability.

But not taking proper breaks, and not eating well whilst at work, can have a negative impact on our health. It can mean that, by the time we pack up for the day, we’re exhausted – mentally and physically. This can have a negative impact on our sense of work-life balance, hampering our enjoyment of home life and, potentially, our relationships, too.

Not only this, but it’s bad for business – yes, what we choose to fuel ourselves with could actually be stopping us from learning and developing, and that’s not conducive to feeling fulfilled in our vocations.

“The health and wellbeing of employees make an essential contribution to business success,” said Lily Soutter, nutritionist resource member and leading London nutritionist, who specialises in workplace wellness.

“What we eat during an average working day generally provides at least 60% of our total daily food intake and, since food fuels the body and brain, it can make or break whether we have a highly productive, efficient day or a slow and listless one.”

So, to help you get the very most out of the working day, we’ve compiled four tips to help you sustain energy to get the best from yourself (and your colleagues).

Encourage healthy workplace perks

Who doesn’t love a workplace perk? Having fantastic opportunities on offer can help workplaces not only retain and motivate staff but can also help to attract the very best talent – especially as we’re becoming more and more health conscious as a nation. Wellbeing-related perks are quickly becoming an essential piece of the criteria for job searchers, so why not encourage your workplace to provide an onsite nutritionist or have annual health MOTs as one of your incentives.

“Employees included in the 2016 Financial Times Health at Work survey identified access to a nutritionist as having the highest potential health improvement rate; 30-minute express nutrition consultations held within the office can be an efficient way for individuals to obtain personalised dietary advice to overcome their barriers to change,”Soutter explains.

This being said, there are lots of other workplace wellbeing initiatives that employers can provide for staff. From complimentary fruit to mental health first aid training, there are so many options to explore.

Get a water station with a twist

It’s a no brainer that dehydration can cause a drop in workplace productivity. “Research has shown that dehydration can impair cognitive performance, particularly for tasks which involve attention, concentration, complex problem solving and co-ordination,” says Soutter.

Despite this, many of us forget to drink, or simply just don’t like the taste of water. To combat this, Soutter suggests providing water stations in the main working area alongside educational material and signs which can act as a reminder for employees to drink. Alternatively, infuse water with berries and mint for a tastier beverage.

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“Herbal and fruit teas also count towards our fluid intake so, in the summer months, teas can be chilled to make a refreshing flavoursome iced tea,” she says.

Give outdoor meetings a try

Ever felt sluggish and tired at your desk? It could be a result of your sedentary lifestyle. “Office workers spend 70-85% of their time sitting at work, meaning that they are currently one of the most sedentary populations,” explains Soutter. “Even when adults meet the physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged and unbroken periods of time has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and even weight gain.”

Not only that but, by going long periods of time without moving, you could be hurting your chances of professional development. New research from the NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has revealed that we’re more likely to learn a new skill if we take some short breaks. It’s thought that, taking these short breaks can help us to solidify the memories of new skills.

So, the next time you have a training session, or learn something new from a colleague, go for a walk – it will help you retain the new information.

And, according to a separate study, if you can make that stroll a 20-minute walk in nature, that could be enough to keep you from getting burned out. If you feel that you can’t justify 20 minutes away from work, why not have your next meeting outside – walking, whilst you’re out in the open fresh air. “Walking meetings are another great way of encouraging activity, whilst the exercise and fresh air may increase creativity and concentration,” adds Soutter.

Be mindful about your meal deal

Whether you couldn’t be bothered to prepare your lunch the night before, or just ran out of time, it can be all too easy to reach for a meal deal. Why wouldn’t you? They’re quick, easy and cost-effective. However, be careful; some meal deals are pretty unhealthy and will leave you crashing later on in the afternoon.

So, what would Soutter choose? “For the main, I would go for a deli egg and avocado sandwich which is a good source of vegetarian protein (22g) and even fibre (8g) – it can be hard to find grab-and-go sandwiches which contain adequate amounts of these two macronutrients. This sandwich is also low in saturated fat and the avocado provides a good dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

“For the snack part of the meal deal, I would choose Quinoa Waves. Per portion, these are lower in calories in comparison to regular crisps. Drink-wise, I would choose an apple and elderflower multi vit – extremely low in calories with only five kcal and 0.1g sugar per serving. This drink choice would be a good option in comparison to high-sugar beverages, so it’s good for dental health.

“A meal deal like this is definitely my top choice. The combo provides a good dose of protein (22.8g) as well as fibre (8.32g) and, lastly, a low sugar (3.6g) and salt (1.6g) content. All in all, it helps to promote satiety and provides a feeling of fullness.”

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