Mental-ill-health-at-workOver a third (36%) of the UK workforce claim to have put on weight as a result of their job, with the average weight gain clocking in at 7lbs, according to a new survey from Canada Life Group Insurance. A combination of bad eating habits alongside a largely sedentary workforce means 44% of UK workers surveyed would not recommend their career to someone who wanted to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sectors on the scales
With 36% directly blaming their job for putting on weight, it comes as no surprise that where you work can have a considerable effect on your waistline. IT workers were found to be the most prone to work-related weight gain, with over half (56%) believing they have put on weight because of their current working environment. Employees in the financial sector (53%) and lawyers (52%) were not far behind. Workers in these sectors, along with those in Marketing and Media, also have the highest proportion of employees who say they spend most of their time at work sitting down, which suggests more sedentary jobs could lead to weight gain.

Most likely to have put on weight because of

their job (by sector)

Least likely to have put on weight because of

their job  (by sector)

IT – 56%  Hospitality, tourism & sport – 12%
Accounting, banking & finance – 53%  Retail & sales – 22%
Law – 52%  Teaching & education – 23%

Winning the battle of the bulge are teachers, those who work in retail and hospitality, tourism and sport employees –significantly, professions that involve spending time on your feet.

From office feeders to eating lunch at your desk – how many bad habits are you guilty of?
With an office setting arguably the unhealthiest, many workers find themselves prone to bad eating habits while they are at work. Although 40% say they bring in a healthy lunch that they have prepared in advance, a third (33%) will eat lunch at their desk while working (compared to 30% in January 2012*). A fifth (20%) intend to eat a healthy lunch but end up skipping it altogether or relying on convenience foods when they are stressed or busy.

In addition, 30% will fall victim to the office feeder, snacking on cakes or biscuits brought in by colleagues – up 25% since 2012. Meanwhile, the proportion who rely on junk food to break up the working day has leapt from 8% in 2012 to 14% in 2013. A quarter (25%) say that unhealthy food is readily available at their workplace, while long working hours prohibit a fifth (20%) from exercising as much as they’d like to.

Stress related weight gain sparking illness amongst workforce
Perhaps most alarmingly, almost one in ten (9%) attribute their weight gain to the stress of their job, up from 6% in 2012. Stress caused by issues at work is an increasing threat, as over a third (36%) say that that work-related stress has caused them to become physically unwell in the past. Lawyers and those who work in marketing, advertising and PR (both 45%) are the most likely to have said stress at work has caused them to become unwell.

In addition, a poor diet and unhealthy weight have been a source of illness for 21% of UK employees surveyed. Despite this, almost a third (29%) of those surveyed receive no healthy lifestyle benefits or initiatives at their workplace.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, comments:

“There can’t be many people who can say they haven’t fallen into bad eating habits at work. Whether its falling prey to the office feeder who just can’t resist bringing in naughty treats, eating lunch at your desk while working, or simply forgetting about lunch altogether and having to grab something unhealthy on the way home, all these bad habits add up to the tune of 7lbs a year for the average employee who has put on weight.”

“Putting on a couple of pounds is one thing, but when a poor diet and weight begins to cause illness, alarm bells should start to ring. Perhaps most alarming is that work-related stress appears to be a significant cause of weight gain, not to mention increased illness. Employers who are looking for a healthy, productive and happy workforce should be sure to implement and communicate initiatives that encourage a healthier lifestyle, or risk facing the inevitable fallout from an unhealthy, overweight and stressed out workforce.”