Unhealthy environment is engendering unhealthy employee habits. Kimberley Dondo reports


New research from Canada Life Group Insurance has found that employees who work in an office environment are more likely to have unhealthy behaviours at work. These behaviours include poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol which all contribute to many types of cancer.

The study examined the habits of employees in different work environments. It would seem that staff in open plan offices are the most likely to partake in unhealthy habits. 33% admitted to being frequent or occasional smokers, this was only surpassed by those who work outside (36%). Three in ten have also tried to give up smoking but have found it near impossible to do during the work week.

Similarly 14% of workers in open plan offices will go drink with colleagues 3-4 times a week or more. This surpasses those who work from home (6%) and those who work outside (9%) and could also lead to workers drinking more than the recommended number of units per week. This is particularly worrying as alcohol consumption is linked to seven types of cancer.

When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, workers who work in an open plan office also seem to be the most disadvantaged, with 58% being more likely to make unhealthy food choices when they are work. It seems what contributes to these poor diets is the fact that unhealthy food is easily available in their workplace.

It’s not surprising that employees in open plan offices are also the most likely to have put on weight since starting their current role (45% vs. 39% on average). This is mostly due to workers not being able to find time to exercise during the work week. One in four (27%) aren’t able to use their lunch hour to exercise as they feel their boss wouldn’t approve. A further 61% say they are too tired before and after work to even attempt exercising.

From this research it would seem those working in open plan offices have the highest risk of one day developing cancer while those who work at home are the least likely due to their ability to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group, comments: “Half of us will get cancer at some stage in our lives, 7and this disease is by far the most common critical illness claim we receive. 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.”

Seeing as eating healthy and leading an active lifestyle have been proven to reduce the risk of developing cancer in the future, it seems employers need to take some level of responsibility to promote a healthy lifestyle for their staff especially for those who spend most of their day at work sitting down.

Avis adds: “Employers can alleviate the issue of poor workplace health by communicating positive health and wellbeing messages to staff. All employers have a duty of care towards their employees, and regularly communicating the importance of health and wellbeing will result in a happier, and ultimately more productive, workforce.”