Adopting healthy habits...and how to keep them

During the pandemic, many of us focused on improving our well-being. As we look forward to the easing of lockdown, ISS nutritionists Charlotte Quick and Sophie Crosswaite reflect on how we can carry our healthier habits through to the workplace. 


Supporting well-being

During the pandemic we enjoyed hosted live social media sessions to answer questions on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help manage the stresses and strains of the life-changing impact of living in a socially distanced manner.

18 days to form a habit

Many of us have changed our diet and health behaviours in the pandemic, some for the better and some for the worse. In March 2021 as we (hopefully) look forward to the easing of lockdown it seems a good time to reflect on some of those changes.

It takes on average 18 days to form a habit and 66 days for it to become automatic, so as we hit a year of lockdowns and social distancing, perhaps it is time to focus on establishing some of those healthier habits and look at how we can keep them going as we adapt to new ways of working.

As a nutrition team here at ISS, we too have baked a lot of banana bread, attempted sourdough, and even bought a paddleboard! But what habits do we feel very passionate about retaining?

The five pillars of healthy habits

Healthy habits fall into 5 pillars:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Sleep
  3. Hydration
  4. Movement
  5. Managing Stress

Whilst we are nutritionists and our expertise lies in what we eat, the other four pillars impact nutrition and vice versa. For example, the amount you sleep can impact what you eat and what you eat can impact your sleep.

It’s my early morning dog walk in the park, which I feel has had a real impact in allowing me to sit down to a busy day ahead with a clearer head.

Charlotte Quick, ISS Nutritionist
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Smart snacking

Research has shown that during lockdown there has been an increase in families eating more home cooked food, which is generally lower in salt, saturated fat and excess calories. There has also been an increase in families eating together and this has many nutritional and mental health benefits. When you eat together you eat more slowly and that stops you from eating too much. Eating together helps children develop social skills, improves self-esteem, and promotes healthy eating habits.

There also been a change in the way people snack with some studies reporting a 40% increase in snacks. Whilst snacking is often seen as a bad thing, we should aim to turn this into an opportunity for healthier snacking by adding more variety into our diets and stocking up on nuts and seeds, vegetables and hummus or fruit and yogurt. Going back to the workplace, keep up the healthy snacking by opting for the wholesome snack pots or a piece of fruit and choosing wholegrain options wherever possible. No snack options at work? Then take your own or ask your workplace team to include them in their vending machines/restaurant.

Healthy habits blog


Sleep more and you'll eat less sugar!

There have been some interesting findings from the ZOE Covid symptom study – a collaboration between health science company ZOE and Kings College, London. The study reports that on average people increased their sleep during lockdown by 70 mins; rather amazingly this resulted in a 10g decrease in daily sugar consumption. 

Refillable water bottle at desk


6-8 glasses a day (not including alcohol!) 

We should aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day, it can be harder in winter but remember that this includes tea, coffee and other hot drinks. Alcoholic drinks do not count and in fact may lead to dehydration. Interestingly, during the pandemic although the frequency of alcoholic drinks consumed increased, the amount consumed overall actually decreased. When you return to the workplace, try to keep up the liquid intake- fill a reusable water bottle and keep it on your desk, Or as movement is as crucial as hydration to productivity, use it as an opportunity to incorporate extra exercise into your day by regularly walks to refresh your glass of water.

It’s my veg box, which I love not only because it reduces food waste, transport and
packaging but also because it means that I try new recipes and as a family we are eating a wider variety of veg.”

Sophie Crosswaite, ISS Nutritionist

4. movement

Walk and talk

The pandemic has freed up time for many people and without a daily commute some people have used this time to bring activity into their daily routine, which is another habit that would be great to try and retain. If you’ve conducted virtual meetings whilst walking around your garden, keep walking when you return to the workplace. Walking meetings; a standing desk; an alarm every hour to remind you to get up and move – it all adds up.

5. managing stress

Take steps to tackle stress...literally!

Research shows that short-term stress can often cause us to lose our appetite, however long-term chronic stress can interfere with our hunger hormones and result in increased hunger. Whilst nutrition, sleep, hydration and movement can help with stress, whether working from home or in the workplace, you should take proactive steps to manage your stress; take regular breaks, connect with others and try to get outside each day for a walk.

We are encouraging colleagues across our business to do this in the coming months by taking part in our annual fundraising pedometer challenge which is a fantastic way to adopt healthy habits in a fun way.

What healthy habit will you take forward? 

We hope you feel motivated to carry on with healthy habits once lockdown ends.