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Is The Workplace Driving The Obesity Crisis?

22/09/2017 10:30
Melissa Ross via Getty Images

With September's arrival comes confirmation that autumn is officially here, with shorter days and longer nights drawing in - there's certainly a new chill in the air.

Across the country, workers are now back from their summer holidays packing rail and road and reflecting on the calorie intakes of the last few months.

As they head back into the office, health and fitness is the last on their list of things to consider - often being pushed back to the top of the New Year's resolution charts. However, the importance of health and fitness can be key to a fulfilling career and should remain a priority all year round.

Data from the House of Commons report into obesity, published earlier this year, shows that four in 10 UK adults are overweight and health and wellbeing is clearly an issue for a large number of the working population in the UK. From our own recent research, it seems UK workers find that the work place can often prevent them from fulfilling their fitness and health goals. And in some cases can impact on health even further.

Over half (57%) blame colleagues' eating habits for making it harder for them to be healthy when at work. One of the biggest reasons for this is the snacks and sweets that colleagues bring into the workplace providing huge temptation for the endless hours spent at desks. Celebration of birthdays is also highlighted as an office perk that often leads to unhealthy habits - 69% pointed out that their workplace celebrates birthdays with large amounts of confectionary. The temptation is simply too much!

Bosses are also guilty of pushing their employees into habits that are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, with workplaces frequently providing unhealthy snacks and drinks as end of week treats. But there is much that bosses can do in the workplace to spread healthy habits and indeed this should be a priority as frequent exercise and healthy eating can positively benefit workers mental health, something that is important when it comes to ensuring a happy and fulfilled workforce.

Initiatives that bosses can offer workers in order to benefit their health and wellbeing include a subsidised membership with a local gym, setting up an office sports team or stocking the office with fresh fruit daily. Right now a large number of UK companies are not offering any of these perks, with over half of respondents to our recent survey saying that their office offers none of the above.

So as the colder nights draw in, and we find it harder to be motivated to exercise and eat well, many instead use this time to refocus and consider their career goals. School has programmed us, from a young age, to see September as a period of new challenge and focus. It is a time for reinvention, opportunity, pouring energy into careers and reaching professional goals, whether that is a promotion, pay rise or securing a new job.

Lots of businesses start recruiting again following the summer holiday period, so there are lots of opportunities out there for candidates and employers alike. But workers should be sure to consider an employer that prioritises their wellbeing - not just through the championing of cake but of mental and physical motivations.

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