We need to take sugary snacks in the workplace seriously

Tameside Hospital in Manchester has hit the media today because it’s taken steps to reduce sugar for staff as well as patients and visitors. This is great news and further supports my proposition that rethinking office cake culture could make a difference to workplace health in particular and public health in general.

In a survey at the hospital last year, 90% of staff said the main problem was snacking – clearly they see snacking as a problem so were perhaps open to an intervention to help them make a change to reduce it.

Similarly in my office cake consumption survey of nearly 1000 office workers, 95% said the ideal frequency for office cake was once a week or less. Again – there might be an appetite for reducing the availability of cake in the workplace – if there was a conversation that helped people realise that by only wanting cake once a week or less, they were in the huge majority, not the minority.

Steve Morton, from Public Health England North West, was quoted in The Guardian piece: “Large employers can set a great example by encouraging their staff to think about their health by opting for healthier food and restricting less healthy options such as sugary snacks and fizzy drinks.” I agree that employers should definitely encourage their staff to opt for healthier food, but I’m not sure employers need to do the restricting when it comes to reducing sugary drinks and snacks. ‘Telling’ hasn’t had a good track record so far in health promotion. My hunch is that if we can start a conversation among colleagues about office cake, they will reduce it in a way that suits them and is driven by them.

Nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert was also quoted: “…decision makers should be investing more in preventive areas even if the benefits may not be seen for a decade or more. Ensuring that the current obesity epidemic does not affect children of future generations is a major challenge for the NHS.

Yes! Prevention is key. But I’d also say it’s not just a challenge for the NHS but for the workplace as a whole, wouldn’t you?

Want to start a conversation about office cake in your workplace? Visit my website, to find out how.