Spoilt For Choice? The Right Workplace Snacks For Healthy, Inclusive Communities

Not all foods are created equally and to prevent someone from feeling excluded, those offering free food should take into consideration different dietary needs and preferences: from gluten free and lactose free to keto-friendly and low-glycemic.
  • In the hopes of differentiating themselves from the competition, many flexible workspace operators have turned to free food.
  • Besides sweetening their members, free food can help bring people together and strengthen the workspace community. 
  • But not all foods are created equally and companies offering free food need to take into consideration different dietary needs and preferences (from gluten free and vegan to keto-friendly and low-glycemic). 

Snacking at work. As subjects go, we’re all experts on that one.

It’s commonplace for workspace members to bring their own food and snacks to the office. But with competition between coworking spaces soaring, many operators now provide food at work to help differentiate their offering (and sweeten their members).

Another reason for providing snacks is that it brings people together. For workspaces eager to build and strengthen their coworking communities, food helps encourage members to gather, talk, connect and collaborate.

Community-Building with Food

The Farm in Soho, New York provides snacks for educational community events, including Lunch & Learn workshops, where the hosts provide snacks such as pizza, tacos, cheese, and vegetarian platters.

Headspace Group in the UK also provides snacks and light bites at weekly community events. These include breakfast meetups, tea and coffee sampling with alternative milks, wine and cheese evenings, gin and whisky tasting, and lunchtime workshops.

“We like to involve the community in these events,” says Michelle Winton, Community & Event Manager at Headspace Group.

“For instance, we are lucky enough to have the owners of Jack Daniels at our Farringdon space; they have sponsored several cocktail events for us, including sampling their Jack Daniels Honey Tennessee brand.”

Food is also a great way to celebrate a seasonal event or raise awareness about an important cause.

“On World Food Day we invited the community to bake a dish from their country of origin and bring them in to share with clients at lunchtime,” said Michelle. “We also raise money for charity by encouraging clients to bring in their home baked cakes to share with the community.”

Spoilt for Choice?

For global coworking brand Mindspace, it’s all about choice.

Mindspace offers weekly happy hours for members with snacks, sweets and shakes. In addition, every space offers complimentary hot and cold soft drinks with a variety of milks — such as soya milk and almond milk — for those with special dietary requirements.

“In our Warsaw site we also offer a barista service for fresh coffee to all members and their guests,” says Efrat Fenigson, VP Marketing at Mindspace.

Additionally, in some of their sites, Mindspace offers a daily hot lunch service, “catering for people who don’t want to leave the office at that time.” This includes vegan and vegetarian, and a variety of food options to suit multiple dietary needs.

As for those with a taste for something stronger, Mindspace occasionally offers beer, wine and cocktails during happy hours. But unlike some other coworking spaces that provide free beer as a member perk — which previously included WeWork — Efrat notes that there is no open tap at Mindspace, and “alcohol is served in limited quantities to maintain the professionalism of the work space.”

Suggested Reading: Why Businesses Need to Create a More Inclusive and Sensitive Community Around Alcohol

“During 2020, we plan to experiment with daily initiatives related to food and beverages in some of our locations,” added Efrat, “and if we’re successful in the pilots, we’ll roll out additional services related to food and drinks in our sites around the world.”

Choosing the Right Snacks for Wellbeing and Productivity

But of course there’s more to food and drinks than perks and community-building.

Food impacts our energy levels, wellbeing and our productivity. With wellness now high on the coworking agenda, it pays for workspace operators to help their members make the right food choices in order to feel happier and healthier at work.

Different kinds of foods are converted to energy at different rates. Some foods give you a quick lift, such as sweets and white starches; but that feeling quickly fades, leaving you feeling drained and craving more sugary treats.

Others, such as whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats, supply the energy reserves you’ll need to draw on throughout the day (see Harvard Health for more information).

Suggested Reading: The Link Between Food, Mood and Productivity

That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of what you eat throughout the working day. For workspace operators who choose to provide snacks and beverages, it pays to be mindful of how you feed and nourish your members.

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In fact, it’s so essential to our overall wellbeing that certain building certifications, such as the WELL Building Standard, state that fresh, wholesome foods should be made available to occupants to encourage better eating habits and food culture.

The WELL Building Standard stipulates 17 separate measures concerning food, including the provision of fruits and vegetables; guidelines for limiting processed foods; information regarding food allergies; responsible food production; mindful eating, and more.

Read the full list of requirements here.

Catering to Dietary Requirements

Choosing the right snacks isn’t easy.

It can be challenging to provide enough choice to suit everyone, which is why some workplaces now turn to delivery services to help them make the right choices.

For instance, Hoppier, which started out as a snack delivery service, now provides custom ordering for all workplace meals, drinks and snack requirements.

Not only do these services help operators of large spaces save time when ordering for events or happy hours, it also helps avoid complications with sensitive diets and specific requirements, which helps members stay healthy and fosters inclusivity within your space.

For instance, providing platefuls of doughnuts and bagels in your space might delight some of your members, but to those with sensitive diet requirements — such as people living with coeliac disease or diabetes — they will only feel excluded.

For UK-based Headspace Group, it’s all about knowing their members and providing choice.

“If there are people with specific requirements we’d certainly cater for them,” said Michelle.

“There will always be vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. We also offer a good range of healthy snacks alongside slightly more indulgent options.”

As for ordering and delivery, Headspace frequently use local sandwich bars to provide lunchtime snacks, and local boutique coffee shops for tasting events. For larger events, they sometimes turn to local supermarkets or online suppliers such as Amazon or Sainsburys (a UK supermarket chain and delivery service).

“Where possible we look to tie-up with local restaurants that may have recently opened, or that have offers that benefit our members.”

And of course, when it comes to food, there’s an app for that.

Mindspace provides its own member app that lists special discounts and benefits available in the local area.

“This way, we help promote local businesses and the local community in the areas we’re in,” says Efrat.

Some other services Mindspace collaborates with include The Good Brownie Co., which provides a ‘walkaround service’ and caters to specific requirements such as gluten or dairy free, and Little Farm, which provides healthy breakfast options.

Snack Ideas

Where you’re providing your own home-cooked snacks or ordering a batch from your local supplier, here are some quick suggestions to help you cater to specific dietary groups:

  • Low Calorie: For those following a low-fat or low-calorie diet, try sliced veggies and hummus, apple chunks with natural peanut butter, Greek yoghurt with berries, toasted pumpkin seeds, or kale chips (Healthline).
  • Keto: The Keto diet focuses on healthy fats like cheese, avocados, olives and macadamia nuts, but minimizes carbs. For a quick snack, serve sliced cucumber or celery with a low-carb dip or cream cheese (DietDoctor).
  • Paleo: A back-to-basics diet focusing on meats, fruits, vegetables and seeds that moves away from refined and processed foods. Suggested snacks include smoked almonds, ‘trail mix’ consisting of seeds and dried berries, and meat jerky (SnackNation).
  • Low Glycemic: The low-glycemic (low-GI) diet is based on the glycemic index, which ranks foods according to their effect on blood sugar levels, and recommends foods with a low-GI value of 55 or less. Suggested snacks include spiced apple crisps, unsalted nuts, fruit, and carrot sticks with hummus (Healthline).
  • Vegan: A vegan diet avoids all animal produce, which means no meat or dairy. But thanks to dairy-free vegan alternatives, cake, chocolate and peanut butter can still be on the menu! Check out these vegan snack ideas from Taste.
  • Gluten Free: Some people are intolerant or allergic to gluten, which is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye. Avoid these ingredients and whip up some gluten-free snacks such as sweet potato wedges, gluten-free carrot cake, dried fruit energy balls, and popcorn (BBC Good Food).

You may also wish to provide a list of ingredients alongside each snack to help people make better choices.

Do you provide snacks in the workplace? What are your top tips for healthier eating? Let us know @Allwork_Space.

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