Is the office making you fat?


Offices! I sure have spent a lot of my working life being in one. This began when I was a student working as a data entry analyst whilst on a semester break from University. Even then, I found it to be interesting in terms of the dynamics, including the different characters. My mum once reminded me of this when she was describing how the office represented a mirror of society, including such characters as the binge eater, the thief, the pervert, and the bookworm. Aside from these personalities that are common in the workplace, the office also represents a micro artificial world. An example of this is that we as human beings are conditioned to react. One way that we react is through eating. As obesity is on the increase, we need to look at the why. Could it be our office environment that is the cause?


The Artificial World

In most modern office buildings, you will find that you are in an open, planned environment where you have been assigned to a section called a cubicle. The lighting will usually be ‘unnatural,’ in the form of hanging fluorescent lights. The air that you will be inhaling may be recycled in the form of ‘air-conditioned.’ So it is possible that you are inhaling what your colleague, 400 yards away, just exhaled. From a birds-eye point of view, you may describe this environment as being unnatural, almost akin to a “cooped-up chicken.” It can be argued that such working conditions bring in a result – the job being done – but how about the effect on your health?


Desk behavior

Office work can be very sedentary, as you will be attached to a table and chair for most of your eight-hour shift. This means that there will not be much movement or flow. And you will be within an artificial environment, with the fluorescent lights hanging over your head. The environment does not only consist of the different characters, but also the company’s government. It is this that makes the difference in your emotional wellbeing—whether you are feeling appreciated and cared about as an individual. If the latter is not the case, you may want to feel some sort of comfort. Where do you get comfort in the office?


Eating to cope

You can get comfort from eating. Food is easily accessible. In the office you may have a staff canteen or vending machine full of sugary treats and junk food—yes, food that is not nourishing you. So why would you eat unhealthy food or overeat? It is usually for one of two main reasons in the office: stress and/or boredom. This is due to your environment. It can be the way that the company is being ‘governed,’ and its artificial environment. Recent research shows that there are companies that do pay attention to the environment by having easy access to free fruit and weekly treats for their employees, or the offer of wellness services like yoga during employees’ break time. If you are not in a company like that you still have choices. You can firstly become ‘aware’ of the stress and decide what action you would like to take. One may be, when you feel like snacking unhealthily, ask yourself why you are eating. Also remind yourself that your body is a temple and you do not want to abuse it by overeating or putting in junk food. Another way to tackle your dilemma is to find out what sort of support you can get within the company, such as stress management. If the environment is still not good for your emotional wellbeing, then maybe it is time to consider your work situation. Maybe change the company, career, or even your lifestyle.


So next time you are at your desk and craving something to eat, ask, “Am I really hungry?”



1 reply
  1. Marie
    Marie says:

    Hi Sophia, I enjoyed this article. It’s always interesting to consider how our environment subtly influences us & the social factor in offices is so important.


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