- A ban on sugary drink sales at the University of California, San Francisco, delivered what researchers have described as "meaningful" results in less than a year.
- Workers who previously averaged 35 ounces daily of sugary drinks — like sodas, sports drinks and sweetened teas — reduced their consumption to roughly half that when the employer stopped selling such drinks in cafeterias and break rooms. Employees were still permitted to bring their own sugary drinks.
- Employees in the study mostly lost weight, had "significantly less belly fat," saw lowered total cholesterol and showed an improvement in insulin resistance. "The natural trend over a year is to gain a small amount of weight and abdominal fat. Thus, it is encouraging we saw no average weight gain and a reduction in waist size," said the study's senior author Laura Schmidt, a UCSF professor, in a press release. Schmidt suggested employers instead offer flavored waters, sparkling water, unsweetened coffees and teas and filtered-water dispensing stations.
Employers' food offerings can be workers' biggest obstacle to wellness. In a recent Robert Half poll, employees said the top offenders include food at office celebrations, snacks brought by co-workers, free meals and vending machine fare. Others cited the office candy jar, after-work drinks, business trips and "bagel Mondays."
Employers have a stake in this situation, as wellness offerings can reduce both healthcare costs and turnover, while improving productivity. To work toward those results, employers are increasingly adopting wellness programs — which also have proven themselves to be a recruiting tool.
As Schmidt noted, employers are free to change their food and drink offerings; at the same time, businesses may want to consider how such choices are presented. A Harvard study published earlier this year found that even a change to how food is displayed can drive workers to make healthier choices. Among other things, "traffic light" labels — green for healthy, yellow for less healthy, red for the least healthy choices — had a positive effect, researchers found.