A lack of water leads to lack of awareness, problems with concentration and poor short-term memory. But ask anyone what they reach for when they need a boost, and coffee, tea and fizzy drinks will probably top the list. How can FMs encourage more people to drink water, the healthiest and cheapest option there is? FMJ explores the health and performance benefits of drinking water in the workplace, looks at the best ways to encourage people to choose healthy options and discusses how best to bring water to the workplace
Every single one of us has been told that we should drink X glasses of water a day. That doing so will make us healthy/more productive/magnificently attractive super heroes. But how important are refreshment facilities to people in the workplace?
Chris Moriarty, development director at Leesman, explains that: “Tea, coffee and other refreshment facilities rank as the most commonly selected facilities element in terms of importance. Of more than 100,000 respondents in our Leesman Index, 89.5 per cent say refreshment facilities are important to them, but only 64.4 per cent are satisfied with the current provision.”
Quite a gap then. Moriarty continues: “Broadening it out, restaurant/canteen provision is slightly less important with only 80 per cent selecting it. And performance here isn’t so good with only 49.4 per cent satisfaction.”
The Leesman Index is also starting to show a correlation between high satisfaction with refreshment and canteen facilities and higher satisfaction with collaborative and creative activities meaning that the provision of refreshment facilities could go much wider than simply keeping people hydrated.
So clearly keeping people hydrated is important for staff wellbeing and staff productivity. How exactly do we do this?
“Some people like to drink bottled water so it’s important to have that available,” says Anthony Bennett, owner and director of bespoke hospitality services provider Bennett Hay. “There should also be plenty of free water around the place that people can help themselves to. Most companies now have plumbed-in water filters in their beverage areas. And in our cafes and restaurants we tend to offer jugs of free water flavoured with chopped lemon.
“In the past we have run successful campaigns about the benefits of drinking water. We also sell energy packs for adding to water, which are designed to replace the vitamins and minerals that our bodies loose naturally, especially when it’s hot. The packs come in different flavours, which can appeal to people who find water a bit dull.
“There are also other ways of rehydrating. In our cafes we sell fruit and vegetables that have a high water content. Watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, peach and other soft fruits, and cucumber and lettuce on the veg side, all have a high percentage of water in them. And they taste delicious. They’re perfect for this time of year.
“I must confess that I do consume quite a bit of coffee in the morning. My excuse is that I’m testing our coffee to ensure that it’s perfect for our guests. But I do also drink a lot of water, especially when it’s hot. I usually equip myself with a coffee and a water when I’m going into a meeting. Up to 60 per cent of the human adult body is water so it’s important to keep that topped up.”
G4S FM employs an in-house dietician in the shape of Sadaf Saied, she explains that: “Hydration is an investment in the workplace. Research has linked good hydration to lower blood pressure and risk of heart diseases, improved mental performance and agility, better oral health, and prevention of many other ailments.”
She continues: “When we talk about hydration, we think of water intake. But in fact, we are actually referring to fluids in general, which all contribute. But we must remember, there are healthy and unhealthy choices when it comes to hydration.
“An average adult’s body is made up of 60 per cent water. The water in our bodies is responsible for transporting nutrients in our blood, the removal of waste products and lubricating joints.
“It is important to mention that food also contributes to hydration – 80 per cent of the water in our diet comes from liquids, 20 per cent comes from food. For example, strawberries are 92 per cent water.
“While there are dietary reference values for nutrition in regard to food, there is a general lack of medical tools to assess hydration so measuring it is a challenge. The average requirement for adults is 2 litres per day for men and 1.6 litres for women. But this of course depends on what sort of environment you are working in, how active you are and how much fat free mass you have in your body. It is common to mistake stomach pains as a sign of hunger. This confusion often causes us to eat, when in fact, all we need is rehydrating – the reason we are feeling this discomfort is because we are already dehydrated. Water makes you feel fuller; it is advisable to drink a glass of water before eating a meal, to help balance your portion control.
“Employers should target their employees with ‘fluid swaps’. Many of us are familiar with dietary ‘food swaps’, an apple instead of a chocolate bar, a handful of cashews instead of a bag of crisps. We can do this with our fluid intake too. For example, flavoured water instead of fizzy drinks, herbal teas (without sugar) in place of tea of coffee, (especially specialist coffees, with milk, sugar and syrups).
“Healthy hydration needn’t be boring. With various flavoured, vitamin-enhanced, and herbal- infused waters on the market, these daily swaps mean your hydration needs aren’t at risk of being unexciting. But nothing is comparable to a glass of fresh cool water.”
As with everything else in FM, or indeed any industry, to be truly on top of hydration training is essential. Saied explains further: “Staff training also has a role to play. Rather than asking, “What would you like to drink?” Encourage catering staff to ask: “Would you like a refreshing fresh glass of water?” This simple trick can help to entice staff and visitors to choose water over the standard tea and coffee selection. Having water on the tables and desks in offices can be a challenge in FM, but free water dispensers placed around buildings is one way to prompt water intake in the workforce.
“Caterers have a huge part to play in the promotion of drinking water. Meal deals for example, should promote flavoured waters, instead of fizzy drinks; visual promotions should be included at eating and drinking points in the workplace. The ‘food for life’ endorsement recommends free drinking water to be made available and that caterers should strive to achieve this, along with taking part in ‘hydration days’ and other relevant events.
“We are capable of living without food for 40 days, but only without water for about a week. This alarming fact reiterates water’s importance. Fresh drinking water also makes good economic sense for businesses. It is sustainably better, in terms of recycling, storing and transportation.
“A good test to see if you are hydrated – if you go from 8:00am to 16:00pm without the need for a toilet break, you are dehydrated. Too much tea and coffee consumption will act as a diuretic, which actually makes us more dehydrated, as they assist in the losing of fluids from the body through urine.
“Water is an investment for the workplace. Poor hydration is linked to illness, loss of alertness and memory – therefore it is of
the upmost importance that employers work to encourage their employees to be constantly hydrated.”
Stephen Charles, managing director at Vivreau points out the eco-concerns that come with keeping staff hydrated. “Keeping a consistent flow of high quality drinking water is vital in order to ensure the comfort and convenience of occupants, however implementing a system that will conserve and save energy can prove difficult. For instance, a multitude of dispense outlets across a number of floors often uses a great deal of energy in the heating or chilling of water.
“Furthermore, with peaked consumer interest in eco-aware brands, products and services, as well as revised government legislation, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to consider their environmental impact. This means that when considering the drinking water supply within your building, it’s imperative to choose a system that will ultimately improve building sustainability.”
Chris Ince, chef director at Servest, had a slightly different view.
“In a cafe or dining area, the area beside the condiments and the cutlery tends to get high footfall. So I recommend installing a tap, or offering jugs of water, in this area. Many people will tend to have water with their food, if it’s available.
“In summer especially, we sometimes offer meal deals that include a bottle of water. It’s not a completely altruistic thing, but is does encourage people to drink more water.
“Personally I do drink water throughout the working day. Kitchens can get very hot and so you do tend to dehydrate faster in a kitchen than at a desk. So it’s important for kitchen workers to stay hydrated. Fortunately I don’t get headaches when I’m dehydrated, but I do begin to feel a lack of concentration. So I’ll top up at that point, or ideally before then.
“However, I don’t make a point of drinking 10 pints a day, or whatever the latest health fad advises. I think some people go to the other extreme with it and end up drinking more water than is healthy.”