Tackling obesity in the workplace: Why employers need to respond to a growing problem

Tackling obesity in the workplace: Why employers need to respond to a growing problem

Obesity rates in the UK and other developed nations are on the increase, often being said to have reached ‘epidemic’ proportions. The most recent statistics from the NHS show that in 2018, a staggering 63% of the UK population was classed as either overweight or obese. Some 26% of men were classed as obese or morbidly obese, and in women, that number rose to 29%.

While all sorts of ideas for tackling the issue have been bandied about by governments and health bodies, obesity is still on the rise. As many more of us put in longer office hours and lead sedentary lives, people are starting to look to employers to take greater responsibility for their employees’ wellbeing in the workplace.

What does it mean to be overweight or obese?

Whether someone is classed as overweight or obese depends on their Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated using their height and weight. With a BMI of between 18.5 to 25, an individual would fall in the healthy weight category. To be classed as overweight they would have a BMI of between 25 and 30, while someone classed as obese would have a BMI of 30 or above.

Obesity brings with it countless health complaints, some of which can be life-threatening. People who are carrying too many pounds run the risk of diabetes, as well as being more likely to suffer from heart disease and strokes. There’s also some evidence to suggest that those struggling with obesity are more likely to suffer from depression, often linked to the other health conditions they’re dealing with.

Why should this matter to employers?

The days when employers could turn a blind eye to wellness in the workplace are long gone. In the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, 2018 saw 141.4 million working days lost to sickness in the UK, averaging 4.4 days per person. As many people spend a considerable amount of time desk-bound, reported physical and mental health conditions have been increasing year on year and impacting people’s ability to carry out their work.

More than a decade ago, Dame Carol Black published a groundbreaking report entitled Working for a Healthier Tomorrow. In it, she made the link between good employee health and better business and societal outcomes, yet employers are only now beginning to take those findings a little more seriously. Companies which encourage workplace fitness programmes, healthier canteen choices and other wellness options almost always outperform those who offer little or no employee wellbeing packages.

A healthier, happier workforce

Employee satisfaction levels increase when employers take better care of the health of their staff. A more satisfied and healthier team is naturally a more productive and loyal one, so the benefits to employers of taking workplace wellbeing seriously are immeasurable.

If you think your staff could benefit from a workplace fitness programme, then we’d love to hear from you. MVP provides personalised fitness training which can transform your employees’ health and help in the fight against obesity. To find out more, simply get in touch with us today.