Damn, did ol’ Bagsy Boonswagler from accounting bring in that delicious Oreo pie again? Hey, you can’t blame him. It isn’t just Bagsy who’s contributing to the plethora of unhealthy, yummy – and free – snacks in the workplace. 22% of working adults consume an average of 1,277 calories per week through free food and drink on the job, according to a unique survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That accounts for 71% of all total calories consumed at work.
It’s no surprise that the free goodies found in vending machines, common areas, at social events, and after meetings tend to be high in sodium, added sugars, fats, and empty calories. Whole grains and fruits are far outnumbered by much less nutritious offerings. The 5,222 respondents to the CDC’s survey ranged in how often per week they acquired free food at work: 35% had one “acquisition occasion,” 20% had two, 12% had three, 11% had four, 12% had five, and 10% had six or more. Employees cited office celebrations and goodies brought in by co-workers as some of the biggest obstacles towards meeting health and wellness goals, according to another survey by OfficeTeam.
Employers have varying attitudes towards averting unhealthy snacks in the workplace. Greg Szymanski, HR Director of Geonecro Management, believes that the “goodwill” built among employees from sharing free snacks is more important than creating “big brother oversight” on eating habits based on government surveys.
Brandi Britton, district President of OfficeTeam, acknowledges that employers can’t keep track of what employees eat, but they can offer healthier food and wellness initiatives.
The War for Talent
As the War for Talent wages on, employers should consider every way they can appeal to an evolving workforce. It’s no secret that millennials place high value on work-life balance, but this isn’t just a matter of “having more time for a social life.” It’s finding ways to promote healthier habits in and out of the office. Various surveys suggest that millennials are more health conscious than older generations, consuming more organic foods and vegetables, taking on plant-based diets, and exercising at least once a week.
Revamping cafeterias to offer healthier snacks shows a concerted effort to help folks develop good habits. And some employers are covering bases with built-in lunches, such as asking “lunch and learn” presenters to choose lunch from a vetted list of healthy vendors.
But food is just half the picture. Other organizations are taking things a step farther, offering personal trainers and exercise programs at work, or organizing office sports teams. Often, these initiatives fall into the wider trend of “staying connected.” James Goodnow, the author of Motivating Millennials and a managing partner at the law firm Fennemore Craig, says his workplace uses tools like Apple Watches and Fitbits to help coworkers stay connected – and healthy – having a holistic impact on overall wellness.
With the increase in remote work opportunities, some employees are able to avoid workplace goodies altogether. Working from home and eating more healthily are two major components of future employees’ ideal work-life scenario. There aren’t any one or two perks that will automatically appease top recruits, but organizations that take employee wellness to heart will stick out.
Most importantly, employees should have choices. Working in or out of the office, employees have the right to consume whatever they wish.
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