Lou Walker is a researcher and speaker on obesity and health in the workplace. She is the author of the only academic study on workplace cake culture.
It's time to rethink office cake. But rethinking office cake doesn't mean banning it... Read on.
Lou's research provides data on office cake culture that can invigorate organisations' health and wellbeing offering
- Office cake culture changes employee eating habits and their waistlines. This may compromise employee health
- 95% of respondents said the ideal frequency for office cake was once a week or less; 41% said once a month
- If cake is available, people will eat it
- People value the social, morale-boosting effects of office cake culture but recognise negative consequences such as weight gain, difficulty eating healthily at work and difficulty controlling their weight
- These findings may apply to other types of workplace.
This evidence provides a real opportunity. The data tells us office workers want cake less often but still value the benefits of short social gatherings during the working day. This suggests it would be feasible to rethink office cake to achieve a healthier, more productive balance between the social benefits and health risks without anyone feeling deprived.
Rethinking office cake does not mean banning office cake. The research does not support a ban, but small changes will make a big difference.
say office cake has contributed to weight gain
eat cake at least sometimes if it is available
thought they would eat less cake if it was out of view
The research has implications for employers
- It's time to rethink workplace cake culture. Although it is a sociable way to bring people together, it is also a health risk.
- Cake culture may be costing your organisation money by undermining your investment on employee health and wellbeing. Many organisations invest in ways to encourage healthy eating, physical activity and emotional wellbeing. But office cake culture introduces sugar and extra calories which contribute to ill health.
- Cake culture could be compromising your employees' health. Unhealthy employees are less productive than healthy employees [1,2]. Obesity is one of the most common workplace health problems  and is strongly linked to increased sickness absence . Sugar  and extra calories through snacking lead to weight gain and obesity [6-8], and strong evidence links obesity to serious health risk including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers and musculo-skeletal problems like back pain .
- There is now evidence that people do not want office cake as often as you may think. They appreciate the social aspects but not the unhealthy consequences.
- Rethinking office cake does not mean banning office cake. Small changes will have a huge impact.
Organisations that rethink cake culture could improve employee health, reduce sickness absence, and improve return on investment on health and wellbeing budgets while still maintaining the social benefits of coming together for special occasions.
Lou has identified a range of low-cost, high-impact actions to help organisations rethink office cake culture. She can share these with you and your colleagues in briefing sessions, or by speaking at workshops or conferences.
References cited in this section can be found here.
Take action to rethink office cake!
- Download a free copy of the Rethink office cake report
- Share the report with colleagues
- Start a conversation in your workplace about office cake: find out what your colleagues really think
- Get the conversation going by circulating a free short version of the office cake questionnaire used in the original research
- Contact Lou to find out how to harness the data from your workplace cake culture survey.
Lou speaks and delivers briefings to offer insights on office cake culture. Get in touch if you want to:
- improve employee health which can lead to improved productivity and employee engagement
- harness and develop the morale-boosting aspects of office cake culture while minimising the health risks
- understand the latest research on the link between workplace health and wellbeing initiatives and employer value proposition
- understand the cake culture in your workplace by using the full office cake questionnaire so you can tailormake your response
- use evidence-based methods to change your workplace eating environment to make it easier for people to make healthy choices
- understand how rethinking office cake can affect public health.
Get the research report
To download a free copy of the Rethink office cake report, please fill in and submit this form.