Work and your waistline – Is your job making you overweight?

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of an employee, the employer is a key figure in ensuring they have the knowledge and tools available to keep healthy, both physically and mentally. The very best employers will provide a whole host of support services and benefits, from encouraging the use of healthy living initiatives to tackling workplace stress, all of which are designed to create a happier and healthier working environment.

The employer can only do so much though. The emphasis on an employee to lose weight is focused solely on the individual themselves. Recent figures suggest that around a quarter of UK adults are considered ‘obese’ (26 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women). Obesity can lead to potentially life threatening diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, bowel cancer and strokes. Alongside the physical changes caused by obesity, it’s not just the employee’s personal life that will suffer; a decline in quality of work at work is a common side effect. Yet despite the dangers of obesity, many employers (and employees) remain unaware of the effects overeating and a lack of exercise can have in the workplace.

You’d be forgiven for assuming an overweight worker is gaining weight due to their lifestyle outside of work. Regularly eating out, heavy alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise certainly all contribute to an increase in weight. However, research shows that over two fifths (41 per cent) of UK employees have put on weight as a result of their job, 18% of these admitting to gaining more than 10lbs.

Sedentary roles can have a huge impact on weight gain in the workplace. Considering that over half (58 per cent) of UK workers surveyed spend the majority of their day sitting down, it makes sense that your job can have a significant impact on your weight.

Your working lifestyle can have a negative impact on your personal time, too. Over a third (38 per cent) of UK employees said being too tired from work prevented them from doing as much exercise as they’d like to. Long working hours is also a common factor in workplace stress. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of workers surveyed admitted to overeating due to stresses caused by their job. It’s fine to treat yourself after a bad day, but having a bad day every day can lead to serious problems with both your physical and mental health.

So how can employers and HR staff help? The first step is to look at how the workplace is negatively affecting employees’ health. Is there an array of unhealthy food sources readily available? If so, is there an equal amount of healthy food options? Promoting healthy living initiatives such as gym memberships and cycle to work schemes may give employees inspiration to start living a healthy lifestyle.

Employee Assistance Programmes, which are provided with most group insurance products, are an excellent way to help effectively communicate healthy living initiatives to members of staff. These programmes can provide online health portals, flyers and posters as a starting point to get employees motivated and active.

Finally, line managers should be keeping an eye out for signs employees may be suffering from stress or weight issues. It’s important not to offend, but it’s just as important to ensure staff are healthy, happy and, ultimately, productive.

About Paul Avis

Paul Avis first joined Canada Life Group Insurance as a Sales and Marketing Director in 2009. He became Marketing Director in January 2013 in order to focus on proposition and market development initiatives. In an intermediated B2B marketing environment, the organisation is seen as a technical, thought leader in the complex arenas of employee health management and protection. Paul joined Canada Life from HR services organisation Ceridian, where he carried out the role of corporate development manager.

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