What is it about?

The workplace is an important setting to promote healthy lifestyle. However, a prevalent aspect of UK workplaces is 'office cake' - sugary snacks supplied by employees or management for colleagues to share. This study explored the characteristics of, and attitudes and behaviours towards office cake culture.

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Why is it important?

This study is the first peer-reviewed work to explore workplace cake culture. It found that office cake (OC) has implications for both workplace health and public health in general and could be undermining the efficacy and return on investment of workplace health promotion programmes. For example 31% f the 940 respondent said OC led to weight gain and 38% said it made it harder to eat healthily at work. Also there were statistically significant differences according to gender and age which could make this a challenging topic to discuss. Interestingly, although 81% said OC was a great way to bring people together, 95% thought the ideal frequency for OC was once a week or less - considerably less than current availability. This suggests there is an opportunity for employers to raise the subject of cake and sugar with more confidence. Restricting OC to once a week, for example, could reduce daily access to sugar and provide an opportunity for a social gathering which people could look forward to.

Perspectives

With obesity and related conditions like type 2 diabetes continuing to challenge healthcare systems globally, I hope this study highlights the important role the workplace has in the health of emplyoyees and society in general. Anecdotally office cake is an emotive topic (this study provides insights as to why this might be) and providing cake for colleagues comes from a place of generosity and kindness. But in today's obesogenic environment, perhaps it's more important than ever that the workplace provides some respite from the promotion of sugar, ultra-processed foods and over-eating which contributes to our public health difficulties.

Louise Walker
University of Chester

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This page is a summary of: Office cake culture, International Journal of Workplace Health Management, January 2020, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/ijwhm-03-2019-0039.
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