FOOD AT WORK
Well-being at work is a major issue in our society today. It refers to the physical, psychological, emotional and social health of employees in their work environment. According to the definition of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), occupational health has three distinct objectives:
- To maintain a high degree of physical, mental and social well-being of employees.
- To prevent the risks to which employees are exposed in the workplace and thus protect them from harm.
- To maintain employees in a job adapted to their physiological and psychological capacities.
Despite legal obligations to build a prevention approach to psychosocial risks (PSR), a growing number of employees report suffering from symptoms related to PSR. Generated by employment conditions and organizational factors likely to interact with mental functioning, they represent risks for mental, physical and social health.
Eventually, work situations where these risks are present can lead to various disorders such as stress, concentration problems, sleep problems, irritability, significant fatigue or eating disorders. Eating disorders are widely associated with work situations where PSRs are present.
Working conditions and nutrition
Working environments vary greatly: individual offices, collective offices, factories, outdoor work, telecommuting… Working conditions and environments influence the way workers eat.
Most workers eat half of their main meals at work because of the distance from home and the practice of working all day. It is necessary to be attentive to the particular working conditions that predispose to nutritional disorders: shift work and night work, work in cold or hot environments, intense physical work, frequent business trips with business meals…
Nutritional health at work must take into account the examination of specific nutritional needs but also the places where employees take their meals. Food hygiene in the workplace, the rhythm, the quantity and the quality of food intake must be the object of sustained attention to avoid nutritional imbalances.
Good food practices in the workplace
In order to opt for good dietary practices, it is important to respect a food distribution during the day, to have a place to eat separate from the workplace, to benefit from a sufficient length of break and to limit food during breaks. Also, dietary rules recommend a balanced distribution of the three main types of nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), avoiding excessive intake of fats and fast carbohydrates (fried foods, pastries, sweetened drinks), and respecting a varied diet (meats, vegetables, fruits and dairy products).
Under the effect of changes in the world of work (reduction in rest time, individualization of work, increased demands, etc.), the consideration of psychosocial risks has become unavoidable. Prevention in the workplace must take into account the promotion of good eating practices in the same way as the prevention of other occupational risks. Healthy eating in the workplace must be a concern for employers and occupational medicine, as it influences working conditions and subsequently the health, safety and productivity of workers.
ANSES – Agence Nationale de Sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’Environnement et du Travail, (2016). Actualisation des repères du PNNS : élaboration des références nutritionnelles.
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Psychologist specialized in Occupational Psychology
Degree obtained at the University of Tours, France
Currently psychologist volunteer for the NGO IASIS in Athens