We caught up with Hip Pop’s co-founder Emma Thackray to discuss the importance of gut health and how it can be linked to an individual’s physical and mental health. Our discussion uncovered how good gut health practices could be the key to maintaining a happier workforce. We also explored how important prioritising employee well-being is for business performance.
Implementing employee well-being measures is an area in which many HR departments could significantly improve. Recent figures from 2021 highlight that around 1 in 4 employees met the criteria for ‘clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety and depression. Subsequently, poor employee well-being was shown to impact productivity for 1 in 5 employees. These statistics demonstrate how vital it is to implement key practices which help promote well-being within the workplace.
What is the importance of employee well-being and why should it be seen as a priority for businesses?
The importance of employee well-being cannot be overlooked – people are the heart of every business and if you don’t have happy employees, your company will be negatively impacted in various ways.
Prioritising employee well-being will benefit four key aspects of your business, these include:
- Employee commitment and productivity – the happier your staff are the more likely they are to commit to their tasks and feel motivated to work towards your company goals.
- A strong reputation – if your company is known as a good place to work, this increases the competition in the application process and helps attract a high-quality workforce.
- Reduced sick leave and absenteeism – if you are not creating a healthy working environment, naturally, your staff will be less likely to come in and find more excuses to not do so.
- Better staff retention – you don’t want to lose a highly skilled workforce due to a poor working atmosphere. A happy environment means staff are less likely to leave your company. This is important, as a high staff turnover can result in company downtime due to repetitive training and onboarding each year.
When employee well-being is put first – productivity and efficiency within the company are significantly improved, as workers are more engaged with achieving the business’s goals.
How can gut health impact an employee’s performance and well-being?
Your gut health is essentially responsible for your general well-being. A person’s gut contains their microbiome which contains the microorganisms that not only digest our food – they also give us energy, prevent diseases, and even regulate our mood. The gut-brain axis refers to the communication between our brain and the gut microbiota – this research highlights the importance of having a diverse gut-microbiome, if a person’s gut is lacking certain types of bacteria this can affect their mental well-being and induce psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. When we think about these functions in the human body, it’s clear to see these are all essential for maintaining a good working performance.
How can this affect a business as a result?
Poor gut health can lead to staff members feeling stressed which can result in downtime for your company. Employees may feel less motivated to complete certain tasks and even become less sociable with their colleagues – employees who are anxious and low in mood may be prone to more workplace conflict, this not only results in added downtime for the human resources department, but it also shifts the department’s focus from both internal and external benchmarks. You will find that your organisation is unable to compete with other businesses as too much focus is required on internal issues caused by poor employee wellbeing.
What are employers’ obligations when it comes to employees that have gut health problems that affect their day-to-day abilities?
If your employee has a gut health problem that affects their day-to-day then this could be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, you will have a duty as an employer to make adjustments to their job role so that they can work as normally as possible.
There are various practices employers can adopt to ensure those with gut health issues are being looked after. Firstly, you will need to assess the company’s approach to work-life integration – is your business’s working style able to facilitate people to have their own lives outside of work? If you are creating an environment which is all-consuming – requiring employees to be on-call at all hours of the day, this will in turn increase their anxiety and stress which is detrimental to their gut health. A way to minimise work-related stress is to offer incentives such as flextime which allows employees to fit in their working hours around their individual needs – this method is a good way to ensure a good work-life balance and is likely to reduce stress and burnout.
Similarly, you can incorporate flexplace into your workplace policy – this allows employees to choose where they work, whether that be in the office or from the comfort of their own home. Policies such as these relieve strict time pressures and deadlines which can help with a person’s gut-related anxiety.
How can good gut health improve employee workplace satisfaction and benefit both employers and employees?
Our gut is responsible for regulating our mood and energy levels, by encouraging good gut health practices within the workplace– in return, you are met with employees who feel more energised and are more motivated to take on the working day. This can encourage overall workplace satisfaction, which will not only reduce downtime for your company – you may also find that overall working performance and efficiency have been improved within your workforce. This benefits your business both internally and externally – as your department is able to focus more on external benchmarking goals, allowing you to contend with other organisations and contend with business growth.
What steps can businesses take to encourage and facilitate a healthy diet for employees?
If you want to promote a healthy diet for your employees, there are various ways this can be done. One way is to host wellness workshops which inform your employees about the importance of healthy food choices for their gut health and also provide them with different recipes to try. It’s also good practice to provide your workforce with healthy snack choices in the office – this could be a fruit bowl, vegan and gluten-free options and healthy drinks such as kombucha. If your office has a cafeteria, ensure they are providing a versatile menu which has plenty of healthy options.
How can employers support colleagues who already have gut health issues?
Previous statistics show that 2 out of 10 people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so ensuring your workplace environment is gut-friendly is crucial. Struggling gut health can be draining – as IBS sufferers are likely to endure a myriad of symptoms such as bloating, constipation and indigestion. The discomfort caused by these symptoms is likely to affect concentration and may even leave them feeling embarrassed about their condition. To alleviate these pressures – HR can implement various practices such as encouraging employees to speak openly about their condition to their line managers. By doing so, they can build a good rapport with their colleagues and work together to find solutions which will be beneficial to them. This also is a good way to manage the emotional stress living with IBS can cause.
Physical options such as providing free fruit and gut-friendly snacks are a very easy and practical solution which can help those with gut problems. Another way to create an inclusive environment is organising work events that aren’t revolved around drinking, alcohol can damage our gut health by limiting our microbiome. By providing alternative work days out such as craft workshops, sporting events and other ideas along these lines – you are able to create a healthier day out which provides the same team bonding benefits any other work social would have.
What is Kombucha, and what well-being properties does it contain?
Kombucha is a beverage which is made from fermented black or green tea – it usually has a very mild taste and is naturally carbonated. The drink boasts a host of benefits such as providing friendly gut bacteria, and antioxidants which can help with gut-related issues such as bloating and energy levels. Kombucha also offers to non-gut-related illnesses such as heart disease, as it promotes good HDL cholesterol and prevents the LDL cholesterol markers from oxidisation. Kombucha which is derived from green tea is thought to have the same beneficial properties in common – this includes regulating blood sugar and added weight loss benefits.
How can functional drinks like Kombucha contribute to a healthier workplace and workforce?
Drinks such as kombucha are a very easy way to promote gut health as they can be consumed on the go, in work meetings or socially. Kombucha is a very versatile drink and can come in a range of flavours such as apple elderflower or ginger turmeric – therefore you are more likely to find this beverage is able to be adapted to suit a versatile range of pallets.
By providing a case of kombucha in your office, your workforce can reap all the benefits of a gut-friendly bacteria just by consuming one drink.
 Harry Bliss 2022
 Carabotti et al 2015
 Madison and Kiecolt-Glaser 2020
 Bupa 2018
 Leech, 2018
 Leech 2018
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and Family History Zone. After obtaining a bachelors degree in English literature and media studies, Joanne went on to spend two years of her life writing and teaching English in China and Vietnam. Prior to joining Black and White Trading, Joanne was a marketing coordinator for luxury property in Brighton focusing on blog writing, photography and video creation.