Office birthday cakes under attack

UK businesses are being encouraged to reconsider celebratory birthday cakes.

Many workplaces around the world enjoy marking employee birthdays with a celebration cake. It's an easy way to boost employee morale and give employees a brief respite from work.

But cake isn't exactly a hallmark of a healthy lifestyle -- and so businesses in the UK are now being encouraged to consider healthier snacks, instead.

Public Health England, together with Business in the Community, a business-community outreach charity, has developed a "health toolkit" to encourage businesses to re-evaluate how they approach employee wellbeing. 

As the guide points out, “typically, adults in full time work spend about one-third of their waking hours at work.”

“Employers have a responsibility to provide safe workplaces that do not damage an employee’s health and environments that support healthier lifestyle choices,” it adds. “Healthy employees drive a healthy business.”

In a section about positive practices that can be enabled in the office, the guide suggests that organisations “begin a conversation about how special events (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, promotions) are marked at work. Can ‘cake days’ be shared, or healthier alternatives provided?”

The guide also suggests offering free fresh fruits and vegetables in the office, for instance in the pantry or vending machines.  Local vendors can be brought in to bring a daily supply of fresh fruit, and staff can be encouraged to take home leftovers at the end of the day.

According to Public Health England, “the cost of an unhealthy workforce to the UK taxpayer has been estimated at over £60bn a year”, which is roughly S$1.1 trillion (the UK population currently hovers at around 66 million).

The guide – which offers practical tips to companies wishing to better support their employees in inculcating healthy lifestyles – can be read here: Physical activity, healthy eating and healthier weight: a toolkit for employers

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