Food & Stress: 10 tips for managing eating in the workplace

October 24, 2019

Who isn’t an emotional-eater or eats when they’re bored? Here are 10 tips for managing stress and food in the workplace.

Vendors don’t bring food into our office. The only food is what employees bring for lunch. So, I was surprised when I had an employee walk into the office and quit on her first anniversary because the “job is making [her] fat.”

You might be thinking, “What does that have to do with dentistry? We are on our feet all day and pretty active.” True, but look deeper. You could be gaining weight due to workplace stress.

Who isn’t an emotional-eater or eats when they’re bored? What is happening to us?

Well, we have more responsibilities without the proper resources or compensation to get the work done, for one thing. We have more pressure from those up above who don’t want to hear how challenging it is, for another. None of this is new, but it’s a problem that’s increasing at warped speed.

Technology is awesome-we can do amazing things, save time, and have the capacity to see more patients. But where does it end? Multitasking truly is impossible. Your brain can’t do multiple things at the same time. Sure, with technology we can do things faster and more efficient. But we feel the frustration and stress as a result of technological advancement.

Add into that the fact the boss wants more upselling, so you’re pressured to push products and services that the patient may need. But your integrity is conflicted. How do you deal with that level of stress?

We are a society that wants to feel good and wants a quick fix. Just take a pill or get a drink. We aren’t truly taking care of ourselves. (Am I preaching to the choir here?) I write this because it is important to look at a serious issue that we need to address. Food and booze do not fix problems at work. It only medicates us from the stress and helps us unwind. But the stress is there even after your plate is clean and your glass is empty.

Obesity is an escalating problem in this country. Depression, anxiety, and risk for obesity-related health problems can all be a result of neglecting to take care of yourself. I look at the relationships we have with food as a symptom of the real problem. The real problem is the stress we are under. We are living to eat instead of eating to live.

What can we do about it?

  • Start conversations about the stress in the practice and problem-solve with your staff.

  • Provide healthy options if you are going to have food brought in by vendors. (This will annoy some of your staff, but I’m OK with that.)

  • Provide options for lifestyle improvements.

  • Hire a consultant to meet individually with employees to root out the true problems your practice is experiencing.

  • Do not allow junk food in the workplace.

  • Develop a wellness committee to establish a program that will benefit everyone.

  • Monitor employee frustration, both through self-report and observation.

  • Suggest ways to work smarter without creating more stress.

  • Have a way for employees to make suggestions to improve the situation anonymously.

  • Have social events with staff that are not focused on eating and drinking.

The most important thing is to realize that this is a problem. Your employees need someone who is at the helm seeing the big picture. Leadership needs to reflect that you are a family and care about the individual. Not that I want you to say that this job made me thin - what about this job helped me get healthy? Hopefully, I have given you a couple of things to think about.

Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com and share with me your thoughts on this topic.