We all love to have a sweet treat every once in a while, and most workplaces bring it to a whole 'nother level. Birthdays, work anniversaries, engagements and even just coming back from holiday are all good reasons to bring out the cakes and chocolates and start munching with your colleagues.
And don't get us wrong - it's fun, it's a great way to socialise, and of course, it's VERY tasty. But sometimes this 'cake culture' could create problems that could be easily avoided with a bit of balance (especially on those weeks with 3 birthdays…)
According to the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, the workplace is the main place where people consume sugar. When you add into the mix the World Health Organisation guidelines about the recommended daily sugar intake (roughly 6 teaspoons) - cakes in the office could have a big impact on your employees' wellbeing.
Between 2015 and 2016, around 63% of adults in England were obese or overweight, and 64,000 adults suffered from tooth decay which led them to be admitted to hospital. Sugar could be one of the reasons so many people face these issues. Sugar was found to be one of the root causes of diabetes, but it also has a detrimental effect on other health issues, such as cancer and Alzheimer's.
But the benefit of socialising to employees and by extension, to employers, is huge. In a survey conducted by Gallup, employee satisfaction was boosted by 50% in employees who had close friendships at work. So, how can you (not) have your cake and eat it too?
We're not telling you to place a cake embargo in the office. But finding that sweet spot between socialising with some tasty treats and still maintaining a healthy culture in the office is super important. In fact, 95% of employees said the ideal frequency of cake days is once a week or less, with 41% thinking that once a month was enough.
If you're struggling with ideas on how to still keep your workplace fun for your staff while reducing your employees' sugar intake, you might like to keep on reading.
1. Provide a variety of options (other than cake)
Sometimes all people need is an alternative. When there's cake in the office, people are likely to eat it even if they don't really want to. The cake was giving us the eye, we swear.
By simply offering other, healthier options, you can reduce the amount of cake that your employees consume, without hurting their fun. Great ideas are fruit, veg, cheese, nuts, hummus or even oatcakes.
If you're a little bit more creative, you can always try a fresh watermelon cake: peel a whole watermelon, chop off its base, cover with coconut cream and top with more fresh fruit. This is a great replacement for cake (that's highly Instagrammable). Pinterest is full of similar ideas that you can explore.
2. Get healthy snacks for meetings
Most offices tend to supply an almost infinite amount of snacks throughout the day, on top of cake days and socials. Instead of opting for mundane pretzels and biscuits, try to give your employees something better - fruit, veg, nuts or anything nice. You can also sign up for one of the many healthy snack subscription boxes that have cropped up in the past few years, or stuff your vending machine with more healthy choices.
3. Try social activities that don't revolve around food or drink
Going to the pub or ordering pizza as a work social may be lovely, but in excess can be really difficult for your employees. Of course, you can decide on taking your staff to a nice healthy restaurant, but we're asking, why should our socials revolve around food in the first place?
Instead, you can just shift the focus of your socials to other fun activities, such as mini golf, adult ball pits, laser quests or good ol' bowling. Try to find activities your employees will find exciting, without the need to eat.
4. Consider shared 'cake days'
Three birthdays on the same week? That surely means three cake days in a row, right? Well, we're suggesting something else. You can decide that all of these important celebrations will get their time on one day. That way everybody gets acknowledged without a constant sugar rush (and then slump) through the week.
A helpful piece of advice is to set these dates in advance. So at the beginning of each year you can look through your calendar and check which events are happening each week or month, and dedicate a shared celebratory day for them.
5. Hide unhealthy snacks
It may sound a bit sneaky, but hear us out. Apparently, we tend to underestimate how much we've eaten when the snacks are right next to us, and we're also more likely to eat them (especially if we're used to snacking in between meals). In one study, when fruit was moved next to the tills in a shop, people were more likely to purchase it instead of crisps or other unhealthy snacks. So by making the healthy options visible (and by moving the unhealthy ones out of sight), you could encourage your employees to make better food choices.
If you still want to let your employees know that they can treat themselves to a chocolate bar or a pack of crisps if they want, consider only presenting these unhealthy options during mealtimes. That way you're encouraging people to keep their unhealthy eating habits to certain time slots.
6. Arrange potlucks or shared lunches instead of cakes
Instead of buying a cake for your employee's birthday, why not have everyone bring something nice to eat and share it with everyone else? If your employees are less keen on potlucks, you can always ask them to bring their own lunch and have a picnic or even just a nice, social lunch at the office. That way everybody can celebrate together without feeling guilty.
If you still want to bring cake, that's fine. By having cake at lunchtime, after everybody's eaten lunch together, there would be less pressure to have cake. And of course, when people are full, they're less likely to have as much cake as they would otherwise.
7. Offer smaller portion sizes
So you got a cake. That's great! But you still need to slice it.
Instead of regular slices, try to reduce the size of each slice. It sounds trivial, but people are less likely to eat as much if they're handed a smaller portion, which means they're more likely to eat the cake in moderation.
8. Prefer screen breaks to snack breaks
When your employees feel that mid-afternoon slump, or when they can't focus anymore, they might opt for a chocolate bar or a sugary coffee. But sometimes that sugar is exactly the opposite of what they need - they just need a break.
By creating a culture that encourages screen breaks, your employees might be happy to just get up from their desk, go for a walk or do a couple of short, invigorating exercises. This can help bring them back into the zone while costing them less calorie-wise, allowing them to enjoy that birthday cake later without the unhealthy side-effects.
9. Advocate for better treats
Bringing sugary treats to the office after a much-needed holiday is a long-standing tradition, and it should be! But so many countries have great options that are less unhealthy but still just as yummy - so try to encourage your employees to put down that bag of Maltesers at the duty free and pick up a box of dates or nice dark chocolate instead.
10. Encourage a generally healthy culture
If you provide your employees with information about healthy eating, make sure they have healthy options, and generally make them feel like eating healthy is appreciated by you - a piece of cake every once in a while would not be that bad. As you know, it's all about balance - and if your staff keeps healthy, they can enjoy their birthday cakes much more.