Is this the perk all your staff want?

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There’s no such thing as a free lunch – unless you work at Google or one of the many other companies now offering free meals to their employees.

The link between healthy employees and productive companies is becoming increasingly clear as wellness programs and fitness incentives take off. Offering healthy meals to employees is one way to encourage them to embrace a healthy lifestyle, instead of asking them to choose between a greasy takeaway meal or getting up early to make lunch.

“Businesses often struggle to offer meals as part of an employee benefits package,” said Sharyn Lauby, the writer behind the HR Bartender blog. “Employees want lunches that are healthy and delicious, and they complain about the menu variety. It's nearly impossible to make everyone happy.”

So is it worth it? Lauby said the advantages of offering meals can be worth the headaches. Employees who don’t have to plan, shop and cook lunches for the week have more time and focus for other things, like doing their job well.

While you may not have the budget for complete daily meals, there are alternatives, such as offering a small range of healthy snacks such as fruit, cheese and yoghurt.

There’s also the option of introducing a market-style, where employees must pay for the food, but will appreciate the convenience and health factor of the options available.

“Imagine replacing your dull traditional vending machines in your workplace break room with a mini-convenience store style concept," said Elyssa Allahyar, Avanti Inc. vice president of sales and marketing. The system allowed employees to shop, read nutritional information on all packaging, and use a self-checkout kiosk to select their payment method.

Overall, offering healthy food options to your employees doesn’t have to have a high cost, but it could make a big difference to their health – physically and financially – as well as productivity and engagement.

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