Should You Be Helping Your Staff To Lose Weight?

Posted on 28th January 2016

As I write this then I can almost hear the sharp intakes of breath from readers. “This is not our responsibility…people are adults and can make their own choices”, “I would be worried I’ll insult my staff, I can’t say that” or perhaps as simple as “I’d love to help but cannot afford to.” I have no doubt there would be many more too.

Is It Really A Problem?

You would have to be living in some kind of a vacuum to not notice the growing obesity problem in the UK. I don’t mean from looking round and making judgements on people, I mean from reputable sources such as the Public Health, NHS and the Department for Health. According to estimates from Public Health England, two thirds of adults are overweight or obese and scarily it is estimated that by 2034 70% of adults will be overweight or obese.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England has described obesity as the new smoking: “It is a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs.”

Is It For Businesses to Address, and Why Should We?

As more and more of us spend a huge chunk of time in the office, it’s not surprising that workers are starting to think that businesses should take more responsibility for the health of their workforce. Obesity is an issue that’s continuing to have an impact on our society as a whole, and the consequences can be extremely serious.

It is looking likely that obesity may soon be covered in employment law, in 2015 a ruling from the European Court of Justice stated that severe obesity should be classed as a disability.

According to research by PMI Health Group, almost one third (31%) of employees believe that their employer should help them to lose weight.   The study involved 582 adults in full-time or part-time employment in the UK. 34% said that they felt their bosses had a moral obligation to help them to lead a healthier lifestyle, and 35% believed that incentivised weight loss programmes could be a way forward. Interestingly, men were slightly more interested in weight loss schemes being offered by their employers than women.

A big question here is whether or not this is really a ‘work’ problem. A little further digging though demonstrates that the two are actually very closely linked. By giving employees the tools they need to get in shape, you could be minimising sickness absence and also creating a workforce that’s productive, engaged, and motivated.

OK, so how can we do it?

Back in October 2014, the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, issued a report suggesting that employees in England could be awarded with cash or shopping vouchers for losing weight as part of a plan to tackle the obesity crisis. I personally have mixed views on this, if it works then great, but actually what most people want is support and regarding weight loss could be seen as quite patronising.

Of course if you have a huge budget you can look at providing on-site gyms, gym memberships, canteens/catering services that offer on the very best in balanced nutrition and big wellness initiatives.

However, I am very aware that many of our blog readers do not have this kind of budget but there are lots ways you can promote healthier habits in the workplace. Here are just a few ideas:

  • When you have meetings and events what snacks are on offer? Can you provide a healthier option or indeed do you really need anything at all – as we all know if it is there people will eat it!
  • Does your team have time to have lunch or do they eat on the go or at their desk? Make sure people take a break, provide an area for them and if possible somewhere to make some lunch such as a microwave
  • Could your budget stretch to having some fruit delivered each week to replace the biscuit tin?
  • Many businesses will come in to talk to your team for free or at low cost.   For example personal trainers, nutritionists (see more in last week’s blog partnering with local businesses)

What Does Gateway HR Do?

At Gateway HR we are not immune to this, and anyone that knows us, will know of our love of cake. We can also fall into the trap of being busy, dashing between meetings and not eating properly. As a business though we are all very aware of the benefits of healthy living, and not just the ones that involved having a wardrobe full of lovely clothes and feeling fab.

On this basis we are going to be practising what we preach as a business, and over the Christmas break I organised for the team to have a week’s membership at Kettering Park Hotel and Spa trying out the gym, pool and classes, and will be making this a permanent staff benefit from January 2016.  The team have also agreed to support each other by limiting the reasons we come up for to have cake… so once a month for us at the team meeting.

These are small steps but I know they will make a difference. As a business owner it is not my job to ask people what they have eaten and when they last went to the gym, but it is my role to provide a healthy working environment to my team, which I hope I succeed in. If you see the team at the gym then perhaps you will know I have.

Regardless of whether or not you think that you should play a part in keeping your employees healthy, the key takeaway here is this: they’re starting to expect more from you than ever before when it comes to health and wellbeing, and if you want to keep your business profitable and productive, you can’t afford to ignore this.   As always if you would like to discuss this further with one of the team do give us a call on 01536 215240.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016.

Best wishes



Emma Wynne Character
Written by:
Emma Wynne
Managing Director