John from Accounting Might Be the Key to Sticking to Your Diet
Work — what is it good for? Apparently, sticking to your diet.
A recent study published in the journal BMC Public Health analyzed data from the European Sustainable Workforce Survey, which included 4,345 employees across 402 teams in 113 organizations, and found that people were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when their colleagues did. The same was partially true for exercise, but only when it was explicitly encouraged, and not simply when one coworker changes into workout clothes before leaving at the end of the day. (The study authors speculate that this is likely because physical activity takes place outside of work hours — unless you’re doing squats at your standing desk, and please don’t be that guy.)
“Since eating is typically more visible and occurs more frequently in the workplace than exercising, eating tends to be more prone to social influence,” the researchers explained.
They also note that this is one of the first studies to address the role co-workers play in our healthy (or unhealthy) habits and behaviors. And so, the inevitable caveats apply. For one, the study looked at the European workforce and not the North American workforce. Moreover, while obesity rates in both continents are similarly concerning, the study didn’t look at how strong of an influence coworkers have over a long period of time, or how employee turnover or job security impacts things. “Future research would benefit from using longitudinal data to examine influence processes over time,” the study authors pointed out.
Likewise, future research should consider the rise of working from home, and how remote employees are impacted by their colleagues. Earlier studies show that remote work during the pandemic led more people to overeat and gain weight, but there isn’t much beyond lockdown data.
So the bad news for those of you working from home or in a hybrid office is that you might be on your own when it comes to maintaining your healthy habits. But if you’re really struggling with your diet, maybe invite John from Accounting over to co-work for the day. You can share both your workload and a plate of salmon and broccoli.