Imagine a workplace without afternoon yawning. An office, a shop, factory or workshop where people are energized, and where the mood and productivity stay at the same high level throughout the day.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about why so many people let it happen to them, day after day, week in and week out. The pattern is crystal clear: Have a carb-rich lunch and get an instant blood sugar rush of energy. About an hour later the blood sugar low is there, with the inevitable post-lunch slump, and the cravings for those sweet treats. Give in, and it is all on repeat.
From a corporate point of view, this profoundly unhealthy pattern could be summarized in two words: Lost Productivity. The post-lunch lack of concentration and creativity is bad enough. Sky-rocketing sick-leave numbers and early retirements make the situation even worse. This calls for action, and there are several measures to be taken. To me, helping the employees manage their blood sugar appears like a simple thing to do.
So – what can employers do to help their staff stay on a healthy and productive blood sugar level all day? The answer is actually quite simple. It takes a bit of investment, but the sweetness of the reward usually makes it worth many times the effort.
First: Educate. The connection between blood sugar and productivity isn´t known to everyone. People need to be educated. What does a healthy breakfast look like? Why do I feel tired after lunch? What are the long-lasting alternatives to the regular fast-carb burgers, pizzas, white bread, and fries? How does sugary soda add to the equation? What other factors, like stress or too little sleep, can influence blood sugar regulation?
Secondly: Simplify. Many workplaces offer snacks – for grabs or in vending machines. Why not replace the sugary stuff with something healthier. Fruits and nuts instead of a sugary snack. Sparkling water instead of sweet sodas end energy drinks. If the workplace has its own canteen, it can develop a food culture for enhanced productivity by serving more veggies, whole-grain sandwiches and other fiber-rich foods that give a more moderate, and long-lasting blood sugar curve. The sugary and sweetened drinks can easily be replaced with flavored still or sparkling water. I encourage you to try innovative brands like Good Idea, a sparkling that actively cuts the sugar spike after a meal, and thus takes the fight against the afternoon slump one step further.
Third: Organize. Unhealthy food and drinks aren´t the only threats to a healthy blood sugar regulation. In fact, too little sleep, too much stress or overweight can be just as dangerous. There is, of course, a limit to the influence an employer can have on people´s free time, but there´s a whole lot to be done during the working hours. There´s no way stress can be avoided entirely, and sometimes it can even be positive. But if overtime becomes the norm, and everything always has to be done by yesterday; clearly there is something wrong with the way work is organized. So – in the long run, a well-organized workplace with smooth routines isn’t only a way of getting things done. It´s also a great investment in the health and wellbeing of the people working there. And, by the way – don´t forget the positive connection between moderate physical exercise and a healthy blood sugar level. Micro-breaks, a quick walk outside after lunch, and a simple thing like being able to shift working positions during the workday can do wonders to workplace productivity.