Whether you are an HR manager, a corporate guru, or simply someone who is interested in healthy living, a trip to the Google campus (Googleplex) in California is an eye-opener. Google has always prided itself on the role it plays in promoting good health amongst its workforce, but now with its remarkable healthy food program, it has taken its commitment to a whole new level.
At first glance, the idea of free food available 24/7 appears to be a recipe for obesity. However, Google has a different approach altogether. While it has dared to keep the food available at its 25 odd cafeteria’s free of charge, it has taken several steps to educate and encourage its employees to make healthy food choices.
To begin with, it sources only seasonal and organic vegetables and cooking ingredients. The fresh vegetables are even available to its employees to take back home, free of charge. Additionally, all the food prepared in its cafeteria is marked by traffic signal colors. Green stands for the healthiest choices that can be eaten any time; orange represents meals or snacks that are average in their nutritional value and should be eaten cautiously; and red stands for meals that are not healthy and should only be eaten very occasionally, if at all.
The distinctions are made based on the healthy eating pyramid released by the Harvard School of Public Health. While employees can opt for a meal of any color, the fact is that they know the relative merit of every choice, and healthy meals are always available. This encourages people to act responsibly.
The only food items that cost at Googleplex are the packaged ones available from the vending machines on the floors. And the pricing policy is a great example of a nutritionist’s idea of humor: a cent is charged for every gram of sugar in the food; two cents for each gram of fat; four cents for each gram of saturated fat; and a full dollar for every gram of trans fat. The MRP, total weight of the food item and its calorie count don’t figure at all in the pricing system. Clearly then, the more expensive a food item, the less its health value.
Apart from these initiatives, Google has employed other smart practices too. For instance, it has reduced the size of its plates, and the healthiest products are placed nearest to eye level. Additionally, most of the recipes cooked in the cafeteria use fresh vegetables, and snacks are only available in small portions. Along with the Healthy Eating Program, Google also employs several methods to encourage its employees to be more physically active.
The result of this entire initiative is that a lot of new employees who aren’t used to eating healthy, end up losing a considerable amount of weight, not to mention the healthy practices they adopt and are likely to maintain for the rest of their lives. As people feel healthier and more energetic, they also end up feeling more satisfied with their work environment and their productivity levels go up. In other words, it is a win-win situation, whichever way you look at it.
Corporate smart-heads who want to see the pure economics of it all should consider the gains in productivity and the savings the company will make in medical bills, if its employees are strong and healthy. The good part is that a lot of these initiatives are quite simple to implement even for smaller companies with tighter budgets. Kudos to Google!