Benefits of a healthy workplace – Friends of the Earth cafe and co-op

foe gluten free pizza - benefits of a healthy workplace

Benefits of a healthy workplace – Friends of the Earth cafe and co-op

I have a question for you that you may never have really pondered before; or maybe not explicitly. How healthy is your workplace? Do you feel like your work environment is a healthy workplace environment for you to thrive? Or are you a little unsure? Or just never thought about it before? There are some obvious benefits of a happy and healthy workplace. Not least the fact that your lifestyle is healthy by design.

I ask because I have recently started working in a cafe and food co-op, and it makes me realise just how healthy a workplace could be. 

Seasonal lunch bowl – Organic, vegan and gluten-free

The Friends of the Earth cafe and co-op is unique because it sells vegan, organic, gluten-free food. They serve a daily lunch bowl that a cook creatively puts together based on ingredients that need using in the kitchen that day. As the shop is a food co-op as well, they sell fresh fruit and vegetables in-store, and everything that is a little past its prime (as well as other seasonal ingredients) goes straight into the lunch bowl.

And what a lunch bowl! When Gen was working at Friends of the Earth cafe and food co-op, the vegan, gluten-free and organic seasonal lunch bowl was the kind of food that dreams are made of. It was Gen’s food that got me into the cafe and also taught me ways of eating more vegan food at home. I truly believe that once we see how it is possible to make TASTY, healthy and ethical food, it is easier to produce at home. And since I tasted Gen’s food, back in 2018 or 2019, I became a convert.

Now, I am learning from another wonderful cook there – Pauline, about how to combine flavours and make really creative vegan food!

Healthy workplace – healthy food and physical exericse

So, this workplace is healthy, because when you work or volunteer there, you get fed the most delicious and healthy lunch bowl or soup, or gluten-free pizza, which is just filled with nutrition, and so good for you.

Before today, I was only at FOE as a volunteer but got offered some paid shifts recently, so today was my first full day.

It was HARD WORK! There is no denying it. All the cleaning, and sweeping and mopping and fetching and carrying, was such a WORKOUT, though! I felt myself breathless at times during this clean-up, which I had never done as a volunteer, and it felt so healthy to be doing such lovely, physical activity.

Incidental physical activity – benefits of a healthy workplace

I do feel that I am the kind of person who enjoys incidental physical activity. So, I am happy to walk briskly for 40 minutes and return to the shops a few times a week, or to public transport to go out with friends, but I do find it challenging to schedule a time to focus on exercise itself.

This is why I LOVE this job! I am going to get a workout and be on my feet all day. And it happens as part of work. That would be the second criterion for a healthy workplace, I think. Does it make you physically active, while you are there?

Healthy workplace environment – socially connected

Another criteria I think is how socially supportive, or socially healthy your workplace is. Do you feel like you enjoy healthy relationships with people at your work? Do you feel supported? Do you bond on a deeper level with them?

Throughout my journey with FOE, I feel like I have become a part of the local community. First, as a regular customer, and having friendly chats with staff, then as a volunteer, engaging weekly with the nicest, most decent and wholesome people, and then as a member of staff myself. I can’t imagine my life without these people in it. And they mean so much to me.

What do you need? Safety at work

I did realise today that it is the best place to work because, by its very nature, it has the potential to fulfil all our human needs. There is healthy food, coffee, music and people.

I imagine that many cafes and restaurants are certainly NOT healthy workplace environments. There is so much unhealthy food being sold in so many of our food establishments.

So much so, that after the vigorous workout, cleaning, sweeping, drying and organising, my body requested leafy greens. All I could think about when I finished work today was a green smoothie. And so, my body asked for the healthiest thing it could think of, after a wonderful day with wonderful people. This is one of the benefits of a healthy workplace.

I hope you can integrate some of those healthy aspects of a working environment into your workplace. And yes, some of it felt like HARD WORK, but that can be rewarding in itself, sometimes.

What elements of your workplace do you find to be the most healthful? Are there any ways that your workplace does not contribute to healthy habits? Maybe you could do worse than volunteering at a healthy workplace for a while! 


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