“Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon.”
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While Canada has increasingly won more medals at every Winter Olympics since 1980, economic productivity has essentially done the opposite, worsening every decade since: the consequence of how differently human potential is handled by sport and by business.
In a study about willpower, researchers measured participants’ blood-glucose levels before and after a focused task. They found that the group who had to exert effort had significantly lower glucose than the control group. Glucose—a type of sugar—plays a role in our mental performance and decision-making ability.
The act of making decisions and actively concentrating on tasks uses up glucose and tires out your brain. It’s an effect called “ego depletion.” When willpower is running low, research shows that we tend to make the decision that presents the least resistance.
The results of this are reflected in a poll of 1,989 full-time office workers in the UK, who were productive an average of only two hours and 53 minutes per day.
Worse, in Canada more than a quarter of workers do not take a regular lunch break due to workload, company policy, or culture, according to a 2019 report. The lunch break has been neglected and researchers show Canadians suffer because of this.
Many employees forego their lunch break, fearing judgment from managers or coworkers, according to Jennifer Deal, senior scientist at the Centre for Creative Leadership in San Diego, which contributed to the survey. “Everyone wants to get promoted,” she said. “Everyone wants to be seen as being hardworking…”
Appearing productive has become more important than being productive.
Leaders’ actions must align with their words, said Deal. “We have this hustle mindset that we can get more done and ‘Let’s just keep working, we can work through lunch.’ And somehow, that’s seen as such an accomplishment. But, at the end of the day, it’s really not.”
Here, productivity is measured in thousandths of a second. Results are recorded publicly by a hundred cameras and broadcast live to millions of homes. Accountability is glaringly immediate. If 100 per cent isn’t given, it can cost everything. All of this success is regimented, and all regimen begins with diet. It’s not about what athletes eat, but why.
Roger Martin, formerly Dean of the Rotman School of Management (1998–2013) and recognized by several business publications as one of the field’s most important thinkers, warns us in Canada: What It Is, What It Can Be: “…versus their counterparts in other developed economies, Canadians work more but don’t work smarter.
“In the early 1980s,” he continues, “GDP per capita in Canada was $2,700 behind that of the United States. And since that time the gap has widened. In 2009, GDP per capita in Canada was $8,600 below that measure in the United States … This growing gap measures the degree to which the Canadian economy is not performing at full potential.”
The gap is now over $14,000.
No one expects business leaders to know nutrition, but they are responsible for mandating workplace culture—a very human affair. Now we see, in language they understand, the damage being done by a culture that promotes working more to compensate for the poor results that it, itself, is responsible for.
The one takeaway from the world of sport is that not just performance, but focus and self-control, rely on nutrition.
Already fuelling professional athletes and performers, Masterlab Catering is the delicious answer to squandered lunch breaks.