Lou Walker is a researcher and speaker on obesity in the workplace. She is the author of the only academic study on workplace cake culture.
It's time to rethink office cake.
The office cake research reveals evidence about workplace cake culture that may surprise employers
- Office cake culture changes employee eating habits and their waistlines
- 95% of respondents wanted office cake 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
- Men and women and different age groups have very different attitudes to office cake.
In other words, generally employees don't want office cake but eat it if it's there. They value the social aspects, however.
This has implications for employers
- It's time to rethink workplace cake culture. It is a health risk as well as a sociable way to bring people together
- Cake culture is probably costing your organisation money by undermining your investment on employee health and wellbeing. On the one hand you're investing in encouraging healthy eating and physical activity, while on the other hand cake culture is introducing sugar and extra calories into the workplace.
- Cake culture is likely to be making your employees unhealthy. 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 .
- People do not want office cake as much as you may think. They appreciate the social aspects but not the unhealthy consequences.
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 developed a range of low-cost, high-impact actions to help organisations rethink office cake culture using techniques that minimise health risk and maximise social benefits.
References cited in this section can be found here.
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
- use evidence-based social influencing techniques to create a culture of health in your workplace
- understand attitudes to cake culture in your workplace using a 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 a healthy choice.