The Value of Employee Nutrition: What Top Companies Feed Their Employees

Can you really put a price tag on employee health and well-being? Or is an employee wellness program just a nice-to-have, a perk that provides intangible benefits for your workers and your business?

Top companies are increasingly learning that employee wellness pays off in more than just good PR. One study shows that every dollar invested in corporate wellness can yield $6 in healthcare savings. A 6x return on investment is an opportunity few investors would shy away from.

As businesses see the dollar value of corporate wellness, they’re also realizing that health and well-being goes far beyond exercise and cubicle ergonomics. Employee nutrition is a big piece of the overall health puzzle. Your employees make hundreds of food choices in a single day. Each of these choices can have a positive or negative impact on their health.

A corporate wellness program that includes nutrition is more likely to make a substantial, sustainable difference in employee health. But the benefits go even deeper than that. A healthy approach to food is a hallmark of an engaging corporate culture, helping retain existing employees and attract top talent.

The following organizations are at the cutting edge of employee recruiting and retention. People want to work for them, and their employees tend to stay around for the long haul. Each of these companies takes an approach to food that is a natural extension of an employee-centric corporate culture. Let’s take a look at how these organizations help make healthy eating convenient, fast, and delicious.

1. Facebook: A Cornucopia of Healthy Options

Mark Zuckerberg’s social experiment needs little introduction. Nearly 2 billion people worldwide use Facebook every month, with 1.28 billion people logging in daily. The site is under continuous development, adding new features and refining the desktop and mobile experience.

Facebook’s New York office fuels the cycle of innovation and creativity with their onsite cafe, Desimone’s. Employees can chow down on a variety of healthy options, including vegan sandwiches, a well-stocked salad bar, and plenty of fruits and locally-grown seasonal vegetables.

The healthy options comfortably share space with less nutritious items, like grilled-cheese sandwiches and a soft-serve machine. The setup helps demonstrate that healthy options are just as delightful and delicious, without restricting employee choice.

When asked why Facebook provides such a huge spread for its employees, Desimone’s Chef Nathaniel Eckhaus says, “[All businesses are] looking for ways to increase productivity, recruit the best and offer a benefit that the employees will perceive as a huge benefit. Why not cross all three off the list in one single swipe and do it through food?”


2. Cummins: Vegan Dining in the American Midwest

Employee nutrition isn’t just for Silicon Valley. Cummins is a global leader in diesel and alternative fuel engines, with a headquarters in Columbus, Indiana. They’re as far from the ping-pong-table, free-masseuse-on-site tech culture as you can get. But Cummins is taking a radical approach to nutrition to control healthcare costs.

The organization opened the Cummins LiveWell Center for their employees in June of 2016. In addition to the primary care medicine and physical therapy you would expect in a health clinic, the center offers classes in plant-based cooking. These classes, taught by Culinary Institute of America-trained chefs, help promote a healthy diet that is as easy, fast, and tasty as the alternative.

Chef Sandy Thomas, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, shows Cummins employee Jeff Booher and his wife, Mary Booher, how to make vegan lentil soup. Photo credit: BRADFORD WERNLE

For Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger, nutrition is the key to controlling health costs and promoting his employees’ well-being. Linebarger hired Dexter Shurney, a nationally recognized healthcare expert, to revamp the business’ approach to health. “The reason lifestyle is such an important issue is 75 percent of all our chronic diseases are due to lifestyle issues. If you’re really not addressing lifestyle, you’re not going to move the needle in terms of health,” Shurney says.


3. Dropbox: Gourmet Meals, Fresh and Healthy

File storage and sharing company Dropbox helped change the way we transfer information, making it easy for individuals and businesses to share files securely and conveniently. It’s almost hard to remember what file sharing was like before Dropbox, when email attachments and even CD-Roms limited what size file we could share.

Fair warning: If you haven’t eaten lunch yet, don’t click on Dropbox’s Tuck Shop Facebook page. The mouth-watering pictures of their gourmet meals are sure to get your stomach rumbling. The Tuck Shop operates like a high-end restaurant, opting for quality over quantity, with perfectly-portioned meals that won’t put Dropbox’s employees into a food coma.

Meals like this vegan Kombu Dashi prove that healthy food can be delicious and even indulgent. And the presentation is half the fun. Check out the knotted string of long beans that goes around the dish:

Vegan Kombu Dashi at Dropbox
Tuck Shop’s Facebook Page

4. Hasbro: Employee Wellness Isn’t Just Child’s Play

Toy company Hasbro has a brand portfolio stuffed with beloved characters and properties, from Transformers to My Little Pony to Candyland. But Hasbro’s approach to wellness goes beyond fun and games.

Their commitment to employee health earned Hasbro a spot on top of Greatist’s 46 Healthiest Companies to Work For list. The company has a holistic wellness strategy, including physical activity, mental well-being, and nutrition.

Employees can take hands-on workshops on healthy eating during their lunch hour. Their onsite cafeteria vendor is devoted to providing healthy options. The benefits even extend to meals at home; Hasbro offers subscription boxes of fresh vegetables from local farmers markets.

Due to their efforts in employee nutrition and wellness, the American Diabetes Association named Hasbro a Health Champion last year. Says Executive Vice President Dolph Johnson, “We recognize that our employees are our greatest strength and most valuable asset, so we’re deeply committed to supporting the health and well-being of our people.”

5. Google: Engineering Employee Nutrition

Google headquarters offers a dizzying array of food for its employees, all available for free 24 hours a day. The options range from high-end gourmet meals to trail mix, fruits and nuts.

The variety and quantity of food on offer is impressive, but expected for a company with Google’s reputation (and budget). What’s more interesting is how Google uses behavioral science and social engineering to encourage employees to make thoughtful nutrition choices.

Google orders their sugary snacks and candy in bite-size portions and keeps them hidden in the bottom drawers of the cafeteria. Soda is tucked away behind frosted glass, while fruits, vegetables, and juices have pride of place.

The cafeteria also reduced the size of both serving spoons and plates, which subtly helps reduce portion sizes. Finally, food is color-coded with labels that indicate how healthy each dish is: green, yellow, and red in descending order of nutritional value.

All of these subtle cues are scientifically proven to prompt behavioral change. Without limiting the choices on hand, Google can seamlessly, almost invisibly, promote healthier eating. Their approach proves that encouraging new eating habits is not as simple as making healthy options available. Lasting change comes from addressing the brain as much as, if not more than, the stomach.

Promote Employee Wellness through Nutrition

Your company may not choose to lay out as generous a spread as Facebook or Google does. But whether you’re serving pan-roasted sea bass or tuna sandwiches, it’s vital to be considerate of what your employees are eating, what choices they’re making, and how your corporate wellness program can help them see the value in better nutrition.

An employee nutrition platform can help your employees make healthy choices not only at work, but also at home and out to eat. For example, Zipongo can link with your company cafeteria menu to guide employees through the work day, then suggest recipes if they want to cook at home or would rather dine out.

Employee wellness is more than a perk. It’s an opportunity to cut costs while improving your employees’ quality of life and creating an attractive corporate culture. Read our latest whitepaper, Nutrition Is Key to Reining in Employer Health Costs, to learn more.

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