Results showed that participants were more likely to report having physical problems the morning after engaging in unhealthy eating. These issues included headaches, stomachaches and diarrhea. Emotional strains such as feelings of guilt or shame in their diet choices were also displayed. In turn, that led to a decrease in “helping behavior,” which is doing a task at work that isn’t within their job description — essentially, going the extra mile. They also exhibited “withdrawal behavior,” which is dodging work-related situations although they’re in the workplace.
People considered emotionally stable, meaning less emotionally volatile and better able to cope with stress, didn’t have as many adverse effects from unhealthy eating. Researchers also discovered their workplace habits were less likely to change when they reported physical problems or emotional strains.
“The big takeaway here is that we now know unhealthy eating can have almost immediate effects on workplace performance,” Cho said. “However, we can also say that there is no single ‘healthy’ diet, and healthy eating isn’t just about nutritional content. It may be influenced by an individual’s dietary needs, or even by when and how they’re eating, instead of what they’re eating.
“Companies can help to address healthy eating by paying more attention to the dietary needs and preferences of their employees and helping to address those needs, such as through on-site dining options,” she added. “This can affect both the physical and mental health of their employees – and, by extension, their on-the-job performance.”