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Research findings ask is working from home harming our health?

According to new research from global food services firm, Compass Group and global market intelligence agency Mintel, UK employees who work from home are more likely to eat indulgent foods, snack between meals, and work longer hours than their workplace-based colleagues.

Analysing insights from 35,000 workers across 26 countries, Compass Group’s Global Eating at Work Survey 2023 found that the vast majority of workers in the UK recognise the productivity, health and wellbeing benefits of maintaining a healthy diet during their working week.

  • 60 per cent say that what they eat and drink at work has a direct impact on their productivity
  • 66 per cent say that the food and drink they consume has a direct impact on how they feel
  • 73 per cent agree that eating and drinking healthily is essential to promoting long-term health

However, despite this, more than half of the UK workforce say they struggle to maintain healthy diets whilst at work, with employees who work from home finding it hardest to resist temptation.

  • 52 per cent of UK home-based and hybrid workers admit regularly eating indulgent foods during their working day
  • Men who work from home were found to snack on average three times per day – twice as often as their work-based peers
  • Employees who work from home are more likely to eat high-calorie snacks such as chocolate during their breaks (31 per cent of home workers vs 25 per cent of work-based employees)

In contrast, two thirds (67 per cent) of UK hybrid workers said they make a concerted effort to eat more healthily on days when they go into the workplace, while calling for more guidance and support from their employers to achieve this.

  • 65 per cent of employees with a staff restaurant expect food outlets in the workplace to help them make healthier choices

Across all age groups, younger UK workers are most interested in healthy eating at work and how the food they eat impacts their productivity.

  • UK Millennials are most likely to choose a healthy snack during their breaks (40 per cent vs 28 per cent of Baby Boomers)
  • Gen Z snack more than any other UK demographic, averaging four per day when WFH, often replacing a main meal
  • Baby Boomers are most likely to grab a quick sandwich for lunch, whereas younger generations favour a hot meal
  • 70 per cent of Gen Z agree what they eat and drink at work directly impacts their productivity (vs just 45 per cent of Baby Boomers)

Work-life balance

UK employees who work from home report having more frequent and higher quality breaks than in the workplace, with 57 per cent of hybrid workers saying they can truly relax during breaks at home compared to 44 per cent for breaks in the office.

The research also found that UK home-based workers are:

  • Nearly four times more likely than workplace-based colleagues to take exercise during the working day
  • Three times more likely to go outside and spend time in nature during their work breaks than work-based employees
  • Better at avoiding screen-time during breaks (39 per cent have a break from screens vs 27 per cent of work-based employees)

However, six in 10 UK hybrid workers said they tend to work longer hours when working from home, while 60 per cent of home-based workers eat lunch alone (compared to 45 per cent of workplace-based employees), increasing feelings of isolation. The research also highlighted that UK hybrid workers miss the opportunity to socialise with colleagues during their working day, with half wishing they could eat lunch with colleagues more often.

Commenting on the research findings, Morag Freathy, Managing Director, Eurest (part of Compass Group UK & Ireland), said: “It’s clear that workers everywhere want to adopt healthier lifestyles. But, with snacks readily available in the kitchen cupboard and the pressure to plan and prepare balanced meals for themselves, employees who work from home are finding it hardest to maintain healthy eating habits during their working day.

“Knowing that hybrid workers want to catch up with colleagues and eat more healthily on days when they go into the office, UK employers have a real opportunity through their food offerings, breakout spaces and wellbeing initiatives to enhance the health and wellbeing of their teams, while also encouraging them back into the workplace more often.”

Nicky Martin, Director of Nutrition and Wellbeing at Compass Group UK & Ireland, added: “We’re changing the way we approach nutrition and wellbeing in the workplace, integrating food service and behavioural science to gently nudge consumers towards healthier choices. For clients, this means expanding the variety of healthy food options we offer in office settings, optimising portion sizes, cutting ultra-processed foods from menus, and introducing more slow-release energy snacks to boost employee productivity throughout the day.

“Clients are increasingly exploring new ways to help their employees eat more healthily at home too. We’re helping clients organise pop-up events from nutritionists, producing recipe cards to inspire home cooks, and even introducing urban farms into offices, to grow healthy, fresh produce that employees can take home with them.”


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