What’s in Your Breakroom?
Is there a breakroom in your office or place of work? If so, how would you describe it? Is it warm and inviting? Large? Small? Bright? Dark? Think about the food that you see on the counter tops, if any at all. Does your breakroom support people who are striving to make healthy choices? Or, like mine, is it a place full of tempting but unhealthy food that you try to avoid?
Research suggests that taking short breaks during the work day can improve focus and increase productivity, but the breakroom may not be the best place to take a breather- depending on the foods that are available there. A breakroom full of sweet treats can quickly sabotage the best diet-related intentions. A breakroom free of unhealthy choices, on the other hand, can support physical health while also promoting socialization and collaboration amongst coworkers.
If the food environment in your breakroom is less than ideal, consider making or advocating for the following changes:
- Make sure that drinking water and cups are freely available to all. Water may be accessible via a water cooler, drinking fountain, or filtered pitcher that is kept in the fridge.
- Provide access to a refrigerator and microwave so that coworkers can safely store and prepare healthy lunches from home.
- Celebrate special occasions, such as birthdays, with fruit instead of cake.
- Use a potluck sign-up sheet, such as those created by the Growing Healthy Kids Columbus Coalition, for office gatherings where food will be served.
- Get rid of candy dishes. Replace with bowls of fruit, if desired.
- Create a healthy snack cabinet.
- Establish a “no dumping” policy to discourage coworkers from bringing cakes, cookies or other desserts from home.
- Encourage your director or CEO to sign a healthy meeting pledge to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to supporting a culture of health in the workplace.
If it seems daunting to advocate for these changes, take heart in knowing that a growing body of research supports improving the office food environment to support the health of employees. Healthy meeting resources from the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association may assist you in making these changes. Once you speak up, you may be surprised by the number of coworkers who favor such changes. A healthier workplace has benefits for all!
Written by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Pickaway County, email@example.com
American Cancer Society (2009). Meeting Well. http://www.acsworkplacesolutions.com/meetingwell.asp
American Heart Association (2015). Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage toolkit. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_465693.pdf
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2011). Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm