Staff Nutrition & Hydration in the Summer
It's July, and probably hot where you work. What's your game plan to make sure that you and your staff stay fed and hydrated?
Yes, you might believe it's not your responsibility to feed anyone but yourself. However, you're deluding yourself as a supervisor if you don't recognized that aquatic staff are prone to dehydration and low blood sugar out in the sun, on a humid pool deck, in a hot mechanical room, or in the pool teaching swimming lessons for eight hours a day.
Failure to monitor staff nutrition and hydration can easily result in someone passing out, a major workplace injury, to say nothing of being unable to perform a physically-demanding rescue or impacting facility operations.
Stock these supplies at the start of the summer for less than $50 or pennies a person. Once you have them, you WILL use them!
Gatorade was invented by a team of scientists at the University of Florida to effectively replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes lost by athletes doing rigorous physical activity in the punishing Florida heat. Gatorade or Powerade are preferable, but if cost or availability is a concern, get store brand juice crystals, Koolaid, or iced tea (see the coffee aisle).
Tip: Buy a tub for max cost effectiveness, and staff can use a scoop. Single-use sleeves are significantly more expensive.
Yes, staff should have a reusable water bottle. Yes, bottled water is not environmentally friendly. But, keep a case like this in your office (not the staff room), and hand one out to staff you catch without a water bottle. It shows that you care, and positively reinforces that you noticed it's missing if there is a requirement to have a water bottle as part of the staff uniform.
If they don't have a water bottle that day, are you really going to punish them by not giving them water? No lifeguard is going to spend $3.25 to buy Aquafina from a vending machine, so be realistic and have some ready-to-go at minimal cost.
Tip: Put their name on it with a Sharpie to get more than one use out of it.
Pretzels or Corn Chips
Pretzels are great because staff can literally grab a handful passing through the staff room and keep going about their day. The salt will cause them to drink fluids, and also help replenish salt lost to sweat.
Prtezels or corn chips hold up better than potato chips - they also don't cause greasy fingers on keyboards- and they are still edible once hit by pool humidity when the bag is inevitably left open.
Tip: buy a hard, storage container when possible because the bag will not hold up.
Individually wrapped candies or mints are great because one can keep you going for an extra 45 - 60 mins. when there's a delay taking your meal break (see below).
These can be kept in a bowl in the staff room, on your desk, or even encourage guards to store a few in their bum packs. Once wet, they don't make a big mess in the pool if you stick to white - avoid red or any heavily dyed candy. Staff are also unlikely to binge on mints vs. chocolate or gummies when they're bored or hungry.
It's hot, this is cold and tastes good - enough said. Again, ensure that you are purchasing in bulk to minimize cost. Cut jumbo freezies in half if staff won't have time to consume an entire freezie during an off rotation.
Yes, instant noodles are not a healthy lifestyle choice long-term, but how likely is it at some point during the summer that you're going to have a staff member who stayed out late, overslept, barely made it to work on time and did not have time to pack a lunch?
Should it happen? No. Will it happen? YES.
Many aquatic facilities do not have the capacity to allow staff to leave during meal breaks (see below), and they may not have food concessions on site, so a $2 lunch (staff will need the calories from two packets to make it a proper meal) goes a long way to showing that you care, and that effective job performance is connected to nutrition and proper planning.
These are self-explanatory and shockingly cheap if purchased in bulk at a warehouse store. Obviously do not buy peanut if you work in a nut-free facility, but do buy chocolate coating as lifeguards do not need to count calories when patrolling a hot pool deck or teaching swim lessons.
I usually stock a couple of pull-top cans for a more robust meal. I've had this cover my own lunch (or dinner!) more often than I've ever needed to hand out to staff, but definitely worth having!
These are just a few suggestions - the sky is the limit in terms of options. Spend time at an inservice discussing the importance of spending $20 at the grocery store on payday to purchase foods that they like to keep at work (peanut butter, cup of soup, crackers, cookies, cereal, frozen meals, etc.) Most of these items are extremely shelf-stable and are unlikely to go to waste.
Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that many lifeguards work at facilities where they are unable to actually leave the premises during breaks. Yes, we are likely paying for their breaks because they are on call or a backup to a larger team, but in this situation it is even more likely that someone will end up "stranded" at work with no food or other supplies they need.
Yes, in the app age, Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats can deliver a pizza to the pool. But young staff working a minimum wage job may not have the experience to make the appropriate judgement call when it comes to importance of nutrition or hydration and their ability to perform the job.
Is there another food you keep at work? If so, let us know in the comments below!