42 Percent of Workers Gained Weight at Current Jobs

America's growing obesity problem is a concern that extends to the office. An annual survey by CareerBuilder looked at workers' waistlines and what factors are causing them to expand.

57% of U.S. workers feel they are overweight, compared to 55% in 2014. 42% of workers say they've gained weight in their present job, while only 16% say they've lost weight. 22% say the weight gain was more than 10 pounds.

The survey also included a demographic and job type breakdown. Women (46%) were more likely to report gaining weight at their present jobs than men (38%). Workers in middle age were also more likely to gain weight than their younger or older counterparts, with 45% of workers ages 35-54 saying they gained weight, compared to 38% of workers ages 18-34, and 39% of workers 55+.Not surprisingly, workers in desk or office-based jobs reported the most weight gain. Topping the list, 51% of people in professional and business services said they gained weight at their present job. At 48%, workers in the IT industry had the second highest amount of people reporting weight gain. 45% of people working in financial services said they had also gained weight at their current job.

So what's causing the weight gain? Or rather, what's causing the lack of exercise and increased eating that's leading to weight gain? The answer may be stress. When workers were asked what they felt caused the weight gain at their current job, 37% of workers answered "eating because of stress". Another 43% said they are "too tired from work to exercise".

CareerBuilder also looked at the relationship between workers' stress levels and whether they feel they are overweight. Stress levels were measured as extremely low, low, neutral, high, and extremely high. 47% of workers with extremely low stress levels feel they are overweight. This percentage increases as stress level increases, ending with 70% of workers with extremely high stress levels reporting to be overweight.

When employees are physically healthy, companies benefit from their higher overall morale and energy levels. This is why companies often have onsite workout facilities or cover employee gym memberships. 27% of U.S. workers, more than one in four, reported having access to some type of employer sponsored wellness benefits. Yet 63% of this group said they do not take advantage of them.

"One of the more interesting findings from this survey was that even when companies provide wellness benefits such as gym passes or on-site workout facilities most employees don't use them," said Ryan Hunt, Senior Career Adviser at CareerBuilder. "Benefits and perks, however, aren't the only way companies can encourage healthier behaviors. The biggest driver of weight gain at work is most likely high stress levels and the subsequent behaviors that result from it."

Even if a company can't offer staff wellness benefits, actively working to reduce stress can lead to more physically fit employees. When employees work long hours, they have less time to exercise and cook healthy meals. The CareerBuilder study found that even eating lunch at one's desk everyday can contribute to weight gain, so those overworked employees unable to leave their desk during lunch risk packing on the pounds.

"Companies that promote work-life balance and offer flexible schedules can greatly reduce stress, leading to a workforce that's more likely to have the time and motivation to eat better and exercise more," said Hunt.
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