Who hasn’t loved to hear that phase? “Cake in the break room” is an office rallying cry that few can resist. The break room is an interesting place and I’ve seen all kinds throughout my career. You can probably picture your break room or employee cafeteria/lunch room area (past or present)…
- Vending machine with chips and candy – check!
- Soda machine with maybe one slot dedicated to bottled water – check!
- Near empty coffee pot with burnt decaf at the bottom – check!
- Leftover birthday cake from Monday (It’s now Thursday) – check!
- Bagels and cream cheese left out from a morning breakfast meeting – check!
- Fridge filled with condiment packets, long-forgotten lunches and a box of leftover pizza from last week’s staff meeting – check!
Yours may differ a little but you know what I’m talking about. A break room can be where healthy habits can go to die and food safety limits are tested, or it can truly be a place for employees to take a break, get a healthy snack and recharge.
Companies are not required to provide a fully-stocked kitchen offering something for every taste and dietary need. However, happy and healthy employees are productive employees, and if a company can be part of encouraging healthy habits, it’s a win-win, right? So, if you’re looking to start a break room revolution and advocate for a better break room. Or, if you own a business and want to give yours a healthy makeover, here are a few quick, easy and relatively inexpensive ideas to suggest or implement:
- Invest in a water cooler system. Then, provide each employee with a company-branded refillable glass or stainless steel water bottle. You can keep the soda machine but ask the vending company for a few additional healthy choices (no sugar added juice, flavored sparkling water, etc.).
- Put out fresh fruit. An easy way to encourage healthy snacking. Fruit like apples, bananas, pears and oranges provide filling fiber and satisfy a sweet tooth naturally. Again, no one is suggesting you take away Bill in accounting’s ability to buy a Snickers at 2 p.m. but maybe a few days a week he’ll reach for a banana instead.
- Look into healthy vending machines. They exist. Think outside the Doritos and that strange snack mix that pretends to be Chex Mix but most definitely is not. HUMAN Healthy Vending and Fresh Healthy Vending are two big ones. They offer yummy snacks that don’t have an ingredient list that requires an advanced degree to read.
- Expand your takeout game. I worked for a company that always ordered from the same three places for all staff meetings, luncheons, etc. I’m certain that there are restaurants around your office that cater to a healthy workplace…they may even have a healthier pizza.
- Finally, toss the leftovers the same day! Or send them home with people. Don’t mess around with food-borne illnesses from improperly storing/heating leftover food. Let Susan enjoy the rest of her birthday cake at home with her family while it’s still fresh and hasn’t been touched by 27 people. And, toss the pizza. Seriously. No one really wants it tomorrow, and maybe don’t order so much next time.
Just one of these ideas will make your break room healthier. Consider the pay off when you invest in employee health and wellness. It will result in fewer missed days, better focus, loyalty, and greater productivity. Isn’t that worth a basket of fresh fruit and a water cooler?