Calls for curbs on workplace ‘cake culture’

A study has found that the amount and frequency of sugary treats in UK offices can be detrimental to workers' health

Calls for curbs on workplace ‘cake culture’

Despite good intentions, HR’s health and wellbeing drives are potentially being undermined by the prevalence of office cake, new research has suggested. 

The first peer-reviewed study on office ‘cake culture’, conducted by health coach Lou Walker at the University of Chester, found the constant availability of cakes and snacks in office environments could be reducing the return on investment companies enjoy when it comes to their investment in the health and wellbeing of employees.

Of the 940 UK office workers surveyed in the report, 86 per cent said cake was available in their office at least once a week. More than one-third (36 per cent) said they never refuse cake when it’s on offer, while 42 per cent ate cake often, and almost all (92 per cent) enjoyed office cake sometimes.

While accepting that sharing treats among colleagues is good for staff morale and team bonding, the study also suggested the amount of cake on offer in UK workplaces was detrimental to workers.

Nearly one-third (31 per cent) of respondents said office cake had led them to gain weight, and 38 per cent felt an abundance of cake made it difficult to eat healthily at work. 

Walker said the cake culture in many offices offers “the worst of both worlds”, with cake often laid out for people to take as they please, meaning staff often helped themselves to sugary snacks without also taking the time to socialise with colleagues. 

However, the study also found there was a “mandate for reducing office cake consumption”. When asked the ideal frequency for office cake, the overwhelming majority of respondents (95 per cent) said once a week or less, with 41 per cent citing once a month as an appropriate frequency.

“Yes, cake is popular, but this research suggests once a week or less would satisfy almost everyone,” said Walker. She added that her research, which is the first of its kind to look into office cake culture, would perhaps “give employers (and employees) more confidence to raise the topic to enhance workplace health”.