During a brunch in April, I discussed safety with a close friend who happens to own his own business.
He built his company from the ground up, and in an effort to provide opportunities to those in need, he employs some workers who would not be able to gain employment elsewhere. With this comes a set of challenges. For the most part, his workers' experiences vastly are different from those who had a grounded upbringing and who didn't have to worry about their next meal.
Their decisions, my friend told me, are based on what they learned based on a need to survive. So, on a typical workday, their thought process and the reasons these workers do certain things may be a poor choice while initially making sense to them.
One particular incident my friend described stuck out, not just because of what happened, but because of how he handled it.
A worker came into his office one day, complaining that a fellow colleague was threatening to take his lunch. My friend told the worker, "I'm going to do something about it. Wait 30 days, and if you don't see a change, please let me know."
My friend began to recognize this as a widespread issue. Employees had been arriving to work late complaining they were hungry. Because they were so focused on their hunger, they were inattentive at work and unable to recognize safety hazards. In addition, productivity wasn't as high as he knew it could be.
Rather than disciplining the instigator, my friend set the work to solve the larger issue at hand; Why were these workers hungry, and what could be done about it?
The problem, he discovered, was one of a socioeconomic nature. The wage he was paying his workers was being spent on things they thought they needed more at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.
For my friend, the solution was simple. He called a meeting for his workers, explaining to them that he was implementing a new incentive. Now, he told them, he would provide granola bars and other snack items for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
Fast forward 30 days. In a follow-up meeting with the complainant, my friend asked if anything had changed. He asked the worker if the work environment seemed better. The worker responded with a resounding yes. Not only was he never asked again for his lunch, his fellow co-workers seemed happier with this new perk.
Overall morale at the company improved because workers became more focused, alert and on task. Workers recognized management cares about them and are respectful to one another.
Because of these two things, productivity increased and the number of workplace accidents decreased.
When it comes to the human factor, identifying why employees make certain decisions and finding unconventional ways to correct them not only could improve your bottom line, they could help reduce the number of accidents as you begin to understand the thought processes behind those choices.
For my friend, a health and wellness initiative directly contributed to an increase in positive decision making and productivity. He identified a lurking issue that many others would miss and, by correcting it in an unconventional matter, he was able to cause a chain reaction that produced measurable results for his bottom line.
A 2016 Huffington Post article by David Vollmer, CEO of Isolator Fitness and Young Entrepreneur Council member, examined how hunger affects the worker and indicates that proper nutrition is second only to adequate sleep.
Through the implementation of meal-prep strategies, workers not only are less likely to experience a crash later in the day and have greater concentration for job tasks, positive workplace relationships will be fostered, Vollmer says.
The article listed the following ways companies can promote healthy eating in the workplace:
- Hosting potlucks – having employees share healthy recipes once or twice per month.
- Encourage meal planning – teaching employees about the benefits of planning out their next meal.
- Setting a lunch period – giving employees a break and chance to refuel and socialize.
- Leading by example – eating nutritious meals and living a healthy lifestyle to show how it can help workers.
- Using real figures – demonstrating financial benefits from company healthcare providers.
Managers and supervisors need to take the time to understand the underlying causes of poor decision making and conflicts because who knows when something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be the key to a safer, happier and more productive workplace.