At a time when health has been higher up the agenda than ever before and food has been recognised as a key part of the nation’s health and wellbeing, we asked – how did Covid-19 impact the work of nutrition professionals and nutrition resourcing in the UK? Thank you to everyone who responded, we have some very interesting findings to share with you.
86 nutrition professionals were surveyed with experience ranging from those in their early career through to those with more than 15 years’ experience; working across the private sector in food service, food manufacture, food retail, food communications, trade associations, pharmaceuticals, consultancy; and the public sector within NGOs, charities or universities.
1. A quarter of nutrition professionals side-lined
Although employment status stayed the same for 60% of respondents, more than 25% of respondents were either furloughed (12%), had hours reduced, found it more difficult to find consultancy work or were made redundant.
2. Big impact on consultancy
It has been a particularly hard time for those working in nutrition consultancy with 50% of consultants reporting they have found it more difficult to find work. There were signs of resilience however, demonstrating the creativity and flexibility natural to those in our profession, with one respondent commenting,
“I initially lost consultancy clients but have managed to pivot the business and have gained new clients so now it’s almost back to the amount of work before Covid”.
3. Work flex
For those whose role has continued, 48% reported their workload had increased and we understand how much pressure you have been under, with many people picking up additional or different responsibilities and supporting other team members. Respondents noted how the type of work has changed with research activities, 1 to 1 client meetings and worryingly nutrition strategy related activities reduced; whereas teaching commitments, delivery of digital communications e.g. webinars, social media and virtual consultations have increased alongside Covid-19 related work e.g. an interest in immunity and more emphasis on the importance of employee wellbeing.
4. Life impacts
These changes in workload go alongside some significant changes at home for some. 41% reported demands on their time at home remained the same whilst 49% experienced an increase. Respondents noted some benefits e.g. time usually spent commuting was freed up, but the large amount of feedback highlighted the extreme challenge of home schooling and increased household chores e.g. cooking, cleaning and food shopping, with one respondent noting, “Some acknowledgement of the impact that home schooling has had on parents, particularly mothers would be appreciated. I have had to give up so much” and another saying, “I am worried about how long I can continue to do this without burning out”. Never before do we need our community to help support each other both professionally and personally.
5. Future is bright
Although the initial reaction to Covid-19 has been difficult for the sector, over half (56%) of respondents felt nutrition expertise would be more important to their employers and clients in the next 12 months, in contrast to just 7% who felt it would be less important.
6. Positive outlook
It was encouraging that the majority of respondents expressed a positive outlook personally and professionally, noting the increased engagement of the public with nutrition, increased recognition of the importance of avoiding obesity now in the context of Covid-19 with many expressing the need for this to continue to ensure the importance of nutrition awareness and help for vulnerable groups.
7. CPD benefits
Many valued opportunities for free access to online continuing professional development (CPD) for example webinars on the impact of Covid-19 as well as the potential for the transition to digital to increase the profession’s reach. Seeing our supportive nutrition community move online over recent months has been a real positive to some, who have appreciated improved digital networking opportunities. One nutrition expert commented,
“I have met far more nutritionists over the past few months through online networking, than I have in the past year. There are huge opportunities to take advantage of online networking, learning and fostering useful collaborations to address nutrition issues”.
8. Personal development
Personal development benefits such as improved digital skills to enable increased flexibility were also noted, with many stating their goal is an improved work life balance, with one respondent stating, “Working from home and flexibility is no longer a perk but an essential”. These represent important considerations for future employers and roles with greater flexibility in the longer term will be in huge demand.
However, some reported less confidence, less career stability, frustration of projects being cancelled and a real gap in physically meeting people from both a professional and personal perspective, including feelings of loneliness, depression and vulnerability. One respondent said, “Meeting and networking has been a real challenge and freelance consultants need this – especially as solo workers”.
Despite the diverse experiences, we can all agree that nutritionists have shown immense resilience through an incredibly difficult time, and we know more than ever that our profession is qualified and highly motivated to help improve the health of the nation.
Flexibility is essential in the current climate, be that because of team dynamic changes or home working. Here at Nutrition Talent we can help support teams with changing workloads and personnel availability through nutrition recruitment. We can provide nutrition resource through permanent or project-based employment, short-term or long-term, or through our consultancy services. Do get in touch to discuss any requirements you may have.