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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK.  As treats and food are often tied up with boosting morale in the workplace, here are two blogs, one brand new, one from 2018, that are related to aspects of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

The first blog, Can thinking differently about office cake improve workplace health and performance? has just been published by the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and looks at the benefits of workplace commensality – eating together and sharing food with colleagues.

The second, Does cake make a workplace happy?, looks at the differences between pleasure and happiness and discusses how cake affects both.

Sharing food and eating together plays an important role in bonding and trust for us humans… but does it have to be around sugar?  Sugar can impact mental acuity and mood as well as metabolic health so we should definitely think twice before reaching for the Celebrations… (Not easy given our love of cakes and baking.)

At the Public Health Collaboration Conference this weekend a new campaign, The Rewards Project, was launched by a team of dentists and other medical professionals, calling for us to think beyond sugar as rewards for children.  One great idea was that for primary school birthdays, every child brought in a balloon for the birthday boy/girl.  How fabulous!  A hospice medical director spoke about the heartfelt, sweet-based gifts to her team from grateful patient relatives, but said that one gift that really stood out was a collection of beautifully painted pebbles.

What similar ideas can we come up with for the workplace?  Vouchers and experiences are popular choices and various rewards websites provide a systematised way to implement this. But what about time?  Time is precious and valuable. One manager in a workshop I ran last year said what she would really value from employers is extra time off.  It wouldn’t work in every workplace, but accruing time for an extra long lunch break or an early finish is now part of the way that team’s reward and recognitions work.

Food for thought…