Workplace Wellness: Insights into British Employee's Health Habits

Workplace Wellness: Insights into British Employee's Health Habits

Read Time: 6 Minutes


20 Feb 2024

It’s estimated that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime according to Andrew Naber, (industrial-organizational psychologist and data scientist). That’s roughly 10.2 years!

With us spending most of our time in the workplace, not only is it important that we enjoy our jobs and are fulfilled by the work we do but taking care of our health and wellbeing whilst at work has never been more important.

With this in mind, we surveyed over 1,000 UK adults to uncover more about workplace health and well-being. We also spoke to Olivia Bell Macdonald, Head Coach & Owner of OBM Nutrition Coaching to get a better understanding of what we should be doing at work to keep our health at a high.


Stay Hydrated at Work

We asked survey respondents how much water they’re consuming at work on a daily basis. A shocking 47% almost half of respondents shared that they drink 2 glasses of water or less (including no water) a day!

Nutritionist Olivia Bell Macdonald shared that on average, it is recommended that males should be drinking roughly 10 cups of water per day, which is the equivalent to roughly 2.6L. For females, it is slightly less; 8 cups of water or the equivalent to 2.1L.

With the average time spent at work equating to around 8 hours, Brits should be considering drinking a minimum of 4 glasses to stay healthy and hydrated.


Managing Caffeine for Focus

Preferring a caffeine boost, however, over 44% of Brits enjoy 3+ cups of tea or coffee a day.

Our expert revealed that adults consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day which is the equivalent to about 2 espressos, 4 instant coffees or 8 cups of tea. While caffeine has its benefits, including enhancing focus, productivity and arousal, when consumed in excess and at the wrong time of day, its side effects far outweigh the benefits. 

Where possible, avoid consuming caffeine until at least 2 hours after waking. This allows you to take advantage of the body’s natural cortisol surge (helping to regulate your sleep-wake cycle) in the morning and maximise your response to the caffeine once the cortisol has tapered off. In addition, caffeine is known to delay sleep initiation and sleep intensity so it would be wise to avoid consuming caffeine after lunch for this reason. 

With 16% sharing they don't drink tea or coffee and 15% sharing they don’t drink water, it’s not a surprise that busy Brits will be looking for a quick sugar fix in the form of sugary pop and caffeinated energy drinks.


Sleep Well, Work Better

Expert nutritionist Olivia suggested that ideally, most people should be aiming for between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. 

60% of our survey respondents reported having between 6-7 hours of sleep with 18%, almost one in five, reporting that they get 6 hours or less.

Adequate sleep, both time and intensity, is vital to optimal functioning and research shows that even just one night of poor sleep has the potential to lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes. 

In the short term, some examples of negative effects of inadequate sleep include; impaired cognitive function, ie. difficulties with memory and concentration and inability to perform complex tasks. As well as increases in hunger and preferences for sweet foods.


Take Breaks to Boost Productivity

By law, workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day if they work more than 6 hours a day. 

But when surveyed, a shocking one in ten Brits revealed that they only take 15 minutes or less.

Slightly cheekier, or employer permitting, almost one in five Brits enjoy the luxury of a lunch break longer than 60 minutes.

Olivia shared that the optimal number and length of work breaks in a day will vary depending on individual preferences and what you are optimising for, e.g. happiness or productivity. It is thought that employers who encourage flexibility and autonomy in how their employees structure their work breaks will elicit the best outcomes in terms of employee satisfaction and happiness, which in turn, has strong links to productivity. 


Food Choices and the Cost of Living

When we asked survey respondents what they have for lunch, a whopping 54% shared that they bring a packed lunch from home. With eating-out prices rising and the cost of a luxurious lunch climbing, it’s no surprise that workers are making their own lunch.

Interestingly, a survey we conducted last year found that taking homemade lunches to work features in the top 5 of 2023’s New Year’s resolutions with almost 1 in 3 (32%) of us having set a goal to bring in more homemade lunches.

Our nutritionist expert revealed that generally speaking, a packed lunch has the potential to be better quality if it is filled with home-prepared food compared to a store-bought or takeaway lunch. 

Our survey revealed that a shocking one in twelve admitted to skipping lunch completely, with 7% of us simply snacking or grazing and not having a proper meal.

Nutritionist Olivia shared that skipping lunch, or any meal for that matter is essentially depriving your body of essential nutrients and energy that it needs to perform everyday tasks, both internally and externally. Skipping lunch is likely to result in drops in energy and therefore reduced cognitive function and productivity. In addition to, increases in hunger and cravings which can make it difficult to manage snacking and general food intake later in the day. 

Top tips from a Nutritionist for creating a balanced and filling packed lunch include:

  1. A source of lean protein that is roughly the size of your palm. Protein aids satiation and will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  2. At least 2 servings (2 cups) of mixed fruit and or veg will go a long way in providing you with the vitamins and minerals that you need on a daily basis. In addition, fruits and veg are a great source of dietary fibre, which again contributes to filling you up and healthy bowel movements. 
  3. A source of carbohydrates, preferably wholegrain. Carbohydrates are your brain’s main source of energy and will help to fuel your day’s activities and tasks. 
  4. A source of plant-based fat, again contributing to feeling full and having energy throughout the rest of the day.


Smart Snacking

Speaking of snacking, we asked Brits what best described their snacking habits at work. An interesting third of Brits revealed that they bring their own with some having a dedicated snack draw for their tasty treats.

With more of us becoming conscious of our eating habits and looking for cost-effective ways to stay fuller for longer and many employers offering free snack schemes, 29% of respondents shared that they opt for healthy options such as fruit and veg.

Interestingly, 28% shared that they don’t snack at all. Great for those who are looking to ditch the high-calorie and sugar-filled treats, but maybe not the best option for those who have admitted to not having lunch at all!

Expert nutritionist Olivia shared that snacking is neither inherently good nor bad. The important things to consider here are, what you are snacking on and what your intentions behind the snacking are. If you’re snacking because you’re hungry, that’s fine. But if you’re snacking because you’re bored, there is probably some work to be done here. Similarly, if you are relying on snacks throughout your day, it may be because your main meals are not balanced nor filling enough, in which case it is worth focusing your attention on them rather than the snacks themselves. 


Exercise at Work

Expert nutritionist Olivia states that regular, short bouts of exercise will produce not only positive physical benefits but mental health benefits too, including improved mood, energy levels, productivity and focus. 

Employees who work a typical desk job should try and get in some exercise and fresh air where possible. This can be achieved in a number of ways, from using a portion of your lunch break to get out and get some fresh air to standing up and walking around the office for 5 minutes every hour. 

When we asked our respondents what best described their activity levis at work quarter of Brits revealed that their job allows them to sit down for most of their day and they don't do any additional exercise.

On the other hand, 20%, one in five Brits, shared that their job requires them to walk around and/or be on their feet all/most of the day. The same premise applies if you’re in a more physically demanding job. Take regular breaks, go outside and take time to sit down and rest.


How Are Employers Helping Their Employees?

We asked survey respondents to share which health and wellbeing initiatives and perks their employer offers to make both their work and personal life better.

Coming in the top spot, 49% of respondents share that they have flexible working hours with 44% also having the option to be hybrid and work from home.

This was followed by 31% of employers offering dedicated break spaces, whether this be a canteen, individual pods or calm open sitting spaces.

Next up with 24% of votes was caffeine-free alternatives such as herbal teas, juices and flavoured water.

Free fruit was also common with 17% of respondents reporting that they have access to their 5 a day at work.

Interestingly, only 5% of respondents reported having access to private health care and 7% to gym facilities.


Expert Nutritionist's Ten Top Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle at Work:

  1. Aim to drink 8 glasses of water a day, 4 or more during work
  2. If you’re a regular exerciser or work in warm climates, drink more water
  3. Keep coffee consumption to 4 cups or less a day
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine 2 hours after waking and after lunch
  5. Try to get 7+ hours of sleep a night to avoid impaired cognitive function
  6. Stand up and walk around the office for 5 minutes every hour
  7. Make sure your lunches are filling and nutritious to avoid snacking
  8. Ensure your lunch contains lean protein, 2 servings of fruit or veg, wholegrain carbs and a source of plant-based fat
  9. Don’t skip lunch and other important meals
  10. Consider your snacking habits and identify if you need a more filling lunch


Will you be upping your water intake? Already have some great work exercise hacks? Let us know your top tips for a healthier work lifestyle on social media by using #instantprintuk!


About the Author

Hi, I’m Ally and I’m instantprint’s PR Lead. I enjoy writing content to help small businesses succeed and inspire them to get creative with their print marketing.