Offering free fruit at work has had some bad press of late in the employee wellbeing field. Many in the sector are quick to point out that businesses need to do more than just provide fruit (we agree) and the British Safety Council made this point by tilting its 2018 report – ‘Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work’.
However, we are here to defend workplace fruit – bananas, apples, pears, berries and pineapples, we’ve got your back!
Let’s look at some benefits…… It’s an obvious one, but providing free fruit at work gently encourages your staff to make healthy food choices, which can be part of a wider drive to encourage employees to eat more healthily. The financial outlay depends on the number of staff you have – and how much they like fruit. However, per ten employees it should cost no more than £17-18 to top up the bowl twice a week if you buy it from a reasonably-priced supermarket or a local greengrocer.
Fruit provides numerous benefits. In general, incorporating fruit into part of a healthy lunch can be a really great way for employees to sustain energy throughout the day. Other health benefits of fruit are:
- It’s an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium
- Fruit provides a great source of fibre, which can help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent digestion problems
- Eating fruit regularly can help to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer
- Fruit contributes to a healthy, balanced diet and taste great
(Source: NHS Live Well)
What’s the evidence?
One scientific study in Australia found that the provision of free fruit at work lowered the number of fatty snacks eaten by employees. The researchers split employees into groups, and those who received the fruit altered their eating habits, indicating that simply by providing fruit employers can guide their employees toward being healthier.
Lendlease, the international property company, has been hot on the trend of free fruit since 2014. Swapping sugary snacks for fresh fruit has eradicated a whopping 984 kilograms of sugar from the company’s food supply. As a result, now 50% of their employees eat more than the recommended number of fruit and vegetables per day.
Our client got fruity
Introducing a healthy eating promotion was a simple part of a workplace wellbeing programme we developed for Retail IT in 2018. This element went down well with staff, with many switching from less healthy snacks to the regularly refreshed bowl of apples, bananas, oranges and pears (all of which were sourced from a local greengrocer, providing a little financial boost to the local economy). The healthy eating message was reinforced with posters in staff areas offering healthy eating advice.
Based on the above, providing free fruit at work is a simple, cost effective way to help boost employee wellbeing and could be a small part of an overall employee wellbeing plan. We agree with the aforementioned critics – it’s not enough in isolation but it can be a good start and something staff will appreciate. And an often overlooked positive is that it helps employees’ financial wellbeing. If they were spending a couple of pounds a day on snacks and the fruit means they no longer do this, that can amount to a considerable saving over the course of the year.
We suggest considering how else to encourage employees to eat healthily. For example, encourage staff to share healthy recipes, organise a recipe collection, or hold team lunches occasionally with employees bringing a healthy dish to share.
Additionally a talk on workplace nutrition could be part of an employee wellbeing programme. Recently we’ve been running such sessions over webinar and helping employees make smarter food choices while working from home.
Further food for thought
Additionally, a survey carried out by British Summer Fruits, which polled 2,000 employees in the UK, has shown more than half think their mood, productivity and stress levels would be enhanced if they were provided with healthy snacks, such as free fruit at work, by their employers.
The research also found:
- 81% of respondents find sugary snacks are provided for meetings, with 48% being offered biscuits during meetings compared to 8% who have access to fresh fruit in meetings
- 50% of respondents eat unhealthily when they are stressed at work, while 55% feel in a better mood at work when they eat healthily
- 33% of respondents snack during meetings only because the food is in front of them