Office workers more at risk of unhealthy lifestyle choices

Office workers more at risk of unhealthy lifestyle choices

Employees that work in open-plan offices are more prone to developing unhealthy behaviours, which subsequently increase their cancer risk.

Despite an increased awareness of wellbeing among UK employers, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance, offices are the most difficult environment for employees to make healthy choices.

The report examined the diet, weight, exercise, smoking and drinking habits of the UK workforce and with cancer accounting for 69% of critical illness insurance claims.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group, comments: “With employees spending the majority of their week at work, the habits we develop in the workplace can have a real impact on our long-term health. Although this is partly down to workers’ own health choices, our research reveals some workplace environments are more likely to cultivate behaviours with real health risk implications than others.”

Employees in open-plan offices are most likely to have put on weight since starting their role with just under half (48%) admitting to overeating due to workplace stress. These employees are almost twice as likely (58%) to make unhealthy food choices at work, compared with those that work from home. Fuelling these poor diets, 54% of UK employees say unhealthy food is too easily available in their workplace.

Separate research from the firm found that the average worker in the financial sector puts on 7lbs a year due to the nature of their job. 94% said they spend the majority of their day sitting down and only 11% would recommend their career to someone that wanted to live a healthy lifestyle. In addition, over half (56%) of IT workers claim to have put on weight as a result of their job.

Avis adds: “As someone who falls under both the marketing – where 42% of marketing workers say they have put on weight because of their job – and financial sector, I can confirm that I have the perfect body for radio.

“Jokes aside, while the availability of unhealthy food is certainly something that should be addressed within the UK’s organisations, it is a serious concern to see so many financial sector workers are putting on weight because of stress or unhealthy working hours. This can not only lead to dissatisfaction at work, but also health problems and illness."

According to Cancer Research UK, 3,400 cases of the disease could be prevented by keeping active, however many workers are failing to meet recommended exercise targets. 64% of office workers say they are too tired before or after work to exercise, compared to 47% of those working from home. 58% say they have no time (compared to 38% that work from home) and 51% are restricted by lengthy commutes. 27% don’t use their lunch hour to exercise out of fears that their boss or colleagues wouldn’t approve.

Smoking accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths according to Cancer research UK, so it’s worrying to find that employees in open plan offices are more inclined to smoke at work (35%) than when at home (27%). 29% that have tried to give up say it is too difficult to refrain during the working week. Furthermore, workers in open place offices are most likely to drink more than the recommended number of units per week.

Avis concludes: "All employers have a duty of care towards their employees, and they 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.”

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