Think you’re being nice to staff by offering them food-related perks? Think again. Unless they consist of fruit and salad, you could be having a detrimental effect on your employees’ health by enabling them to stress eat.
This is one of the findings from “Eating your feelings? Testing a model of employees’ work-related stressors, sleep quality and unhealthy eating”, a recent study published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
The researchers found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to eat more than usual and opt for more junk food instead of healthier alternatives.
Arguably, this isn’t the biggest revelation. Anyone who has ever had a busy day could have told you sugar and greasy food become more appealing when stressed. What is interesting, however, is the additional finding that better sleep can help prevent these bad eating habits.
“A key finding showed how sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work,” said Daisy Chang Chu Hsiang , Michigan State University (MSU) associate professor of psychology and study co-author. “When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”
Aside from trying to minimise the amount of stress you put your staff under, according to the researchers, companies can help address stress eating by emphasising the importance of health management and considering sleep-awareness training and flexible scheduling.
“A good night’s sleep can make workers replenished and feel vigorous again, which may make them better able to deal with stress at work the next day and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating,” said Liu Yi Hao, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois.
Additionally, the researchers suggest that employers should reconsider the true value of food-related job perks. If you do decide to rid the pantry of junk food, however, remember to leave some chocolate.
In addition to Chang and Liu, authors included Shi Jun Gi from Sun Yat-sen University in China, Jaclyn Koopmann from Auburn University, and Song Yi Fan and Mo Wang from the University of Florida.