No Gas in the Tank?…Duh…It’s just Biochemistry

Over the last 10 years various academic studies highlighted in the media have focused attention on the costs imposed on business by illness and workplace injury.  A government report published in 2008 estimated cost of injury and illness at work to be £30 billion.  The cost to business of people turning up to work but not doing their jobs properly due to ill health or injury is thought to be double that figure.  

Studies also suggest that there is an association between obesity and lower productivity at work. One study estimated that lost productivity time (LPT) costs the US economy $42.29 billion annually. This was thought to be a conservative figure because studies which use BMI data rely on self-reported weight, which is often understated. The estimate also does not include the costs of recruiting and training new staff and the impact on co-workers’ productivity. Wow! So, the problem is a huge one and ever growing.  Should the employer be worried or is this something that the individual should be held totally accountable for?  They know what healthy eating is for goodness sake, they are just not choosing to do it. Isn’t that the argument? Surely the employer can just wash their hands of the problem and declare its business as usual.

A study of 15,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K. found that employees with poor nutritional balance reported 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues. 

(’Reilly, Sally. “Eating the Profits.” Personnel Today 4 July 2006: 26. ProQuest. Web. 6 Aug. 2009.)

Other research showed that the healthiest quartile of the workforce is seven hours more productive a week than the least healthy quartile.

(Beagrie, Scott. “How to improve productivity through employee health management.” Personnel Today 7 June 2005: 25.)

ABI/Inform. Web. 6 Aug. 2009) A few enlightened companies are realising that employee health and especially the influence of nutrition can potentially have a massive impact not just on the happiness of the workforce but also on the bottom line.

The issue of presenteeism at work is difficult to measure accurately and any studies undertaken are likely to massively underestimate its effects. Causes are multi-factorial but poor understanding on how nutrition can influence energy, vitality and immunity is rife, not only in the “shop floor” workforce but also at management level.  This coupled with a disconnect between low density nutrition food being shoved in and gobbled down equalling poor and even critical health, leads workers and leaders not to make the connection between energy levels and food.  We have become so Head focussed (do, do, do, achieve, achieve, achieve) that we are failing to realise that we are connected to a Body.  Energy in the body is produced from the food we eat (more accurately the food we absorb).  Nutrients from our food are fed into the energy production cycle in the body (Krebs Cycle for those of you who remember your biology!) and this cycle produces ATP our energy currency that drives the cells (the individual building blocks) in our bodies to function and perform.  Deficiencies in certain vitamins/vital mineral hinder your body’s ability to perform all the chemical reactions in the Kreb’s cycle, ultimately reducing energy production within your cells.  Eating white bread, for example, takes more resources to process it than it gives so your body is already in “negative equity”. If there is no energy to spare is there any wonder when people are eating a SBD (Standard British Diet) full of dead, nutrient poor, addictive, pappy food?  Junk in – Junk out.

Many managers are hiding the fact that they can hardly function due to lack of energy or feeling plain old knackered in common parlance, showing up but not doing the work.  One CEO I worked with would get into the office lock the office door and take a snooze under the desk.  Another top manager would drive to a meeting, take a kip in the car, pretend he was “on it” for a meeting and have to return to the car, drive down the road and take another 40 winks in a lay-by.  If this is management level, what is happening down the ranks that we just don’t know about or can’t measure?

We think of ourselves as rational human machines – in fact our bodies are highly adaptable, but they can only take so much.  Taking back control of vital energy in your industry starts with yourself through making some simple tweaks to your understanding of what nourishes you.   Once you understand that your energy can soar from the very next day.  Think of the impact that has on you and your productivity, and the energy you can produce for you, your company and your people.  You will realise that you are a human being not a human doing and make the connection that your biochemistry needs tending for optimum results.

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