For professional sportsmen, success starts with a healthy, balanced diet. But that hasn’t always been the case. As a former footballer for clubs in Asia and Australasia, Stephen Stott remembers being given “Guinness and eggs whisked together to boost iron levels”.
But after becoming ill with an auto-immune problem since quitting the sport in 1997, Stott now follows an alkaline-based diet. “My middle child was born with multiple intolerances too, so I got a good understanding of food and nutrition on a personal level. I then saw the importance of bringing that into the workplace,” says Stott, founder and CEO of Stott & May, an executive headhunting firm.
As a result, his company’s four offices encourage employees to live healthy and active lifestyles. There’s a NutriBullet juicer in each, alongside a range of fresh fruit and vegetables. “We have ‘Bullet-offs’ to see who can product the best juice,” he says.
Stott has discovered a clear link between lifestyle and productivity: “Our most productive people are those who have a good, balanced diet and are physically fit.” They don’t come much fitter than Sophie Johnson, a former Team GB cyclist who is now a manager at Stott & May.
Some of the internet giants are trailblazers in nutrition. Google’s free food scheme is well documented and other companies are following suit. Reward Gateway, an HR technology company, offers its teams free breakfast. “We’ve always had a young workforce and we found that young people function better with breakfast,” says Tracy Mellor, managing director Australia and group people director at Reward Gateway.
“So we’ve provided breakfast, and fruit, for our teams. It’s a small gesture from us, but our staff really appreciate it — it means less stress and more time in bed.” There are other business benefits to encouraging employees to eat their greens.
According to accountancy firm PwC, sick days cost UK employers about £29 billion a year. Employers mustn’t be too pushy with their healthy-eating messages though, Stott warns: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. However, if there are horses in the water drinking, the others will probably drink too.”