There have been many news stories and posts in regards to ‘cake culture’ and if you are a fellow bun-aficionado, muffin adorer or cake lover, the phrase alone will make you salivate. The chances are, you may already be working in a ‘cake culture’.

How to spot if you have a ‘cake culture’.

  1. There is an area – eg a draw, a table, an unused desk which is dedicated to snacks
  2. There is a routine – eg the Monday morning top op of the cake table, the post lunch trip to the corner shop..
  3. There’s a ‘pusher’-
    ‘Ahh go on… Just an little slice….
  4. People are trained to bring in cakes for birthdays. And charity days. And Fridays. And Christmas. And Easter.

If this sounds like your office, then you’re not alone. As this is typed, the author has half a twix in mouth, a tea perched on the desk and an eye on that slice of birthday cake a few metres away.

Turning down food seems almost Herculean when you are asked 5 times a day if you will be indulging.

But why do we all continue in a cake culture, despite often going home, lamenting the broken diets, cursing the second slices and vowing to have more willpower tomorrow?

In short – it’s social.  Food is social, and sharing ‘naughty’ food is something we can all enjoy.  It makes it less of a guilt ridden past time, with feelings you might get from breaking a healthy eating promise on your own, and instead brings a sense of camaraderie – ‘we’ll all go down together’. That might explain the “gentle” coercion given to any dissenters who are refusing to join in.

Sharing a homemade cake, a pack of biscuits or some sweets is also another way of showing appreciation. It might feel cheesy or a bit ‘formal’ to say thank you when it comes to work, but the gift of food says it all. Perhaps a colleague buys you something specifically that they’ve seen you enjoy, a passive way of saying ‘thanks!’ And whilst we know teachers love apples, ‘happening’ to have 1 croissant left over to pass the boss is a good way to start the day off well.

But we don’t just have 1 day a month of naughty treats, and we can indulge day in day out. Why? Well, just like the British classic – the brew round – it makes the day seem to go a bit quicker. And unlike a healthier / non food related habit, consuming sugar can can create a deep neural pathway, quickly. By being ‘rewarded’ for coping with a stressful situation with a sweet treat, we become Pavlovian in our responses – expecting the hit of the sugar rush whenever we do something taxing.

No wonder we start to think we’re a shadow of our former selves when we miss our 2pm HobNob.

The good news is that any routine, whether it’s a plum after your daily report or a sticky bun after your daily meeting makes the day feel a little more simple to ‘complete’. We are creatures of habit, and we can easily make and break bad habits.

Cake culture is a hard subject, because it’s not all laughs. Let’s just look at health.  When high fat / sugar foods are  consumed very often, the excess fat, carbohydrates, and processed sugar can increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other chronic issues. On top of the risks, as an employer, you also know the parallels between healthy, happy employees and retention. So what are you going to do about these pesky cakes?

Whatever your own view on weight, health, food or nutrition, the office is not the place to air these opinions, especially if you are in a position of authority. If people choose to bring in sweet treats, that should be fine, just as for people to choose to consume them. In short – ban the cakes and it’s not just a decreasing waistline in sight, it could be a decreasing retention rate.Instead, offering choice  or supporting healthy choices with rewards and empowerment through learning is the smart move for most employers. You might look at things like Free fruit. Herbal teas. A breakfast club. Different milk options. A grill. A few recipe ideas. Free tupperware for fruit. Another fridge for storing food. Voucher or gift cards for each team’s healthy snacks. Fruit and veg baskets. Cookery lessons.

Cake isn’t demonic and ‘all bad’ just as a diet of all carrots would be all good, and realistically, providing and enabling choice is the only way to effectively offer momentum and motivation to change.

The great news is, as an employer you can have a drastic positive effect on people’s lives with encouragement and a very small investment.

Are you combating cake culture in your workplace?

How do you achieve this?