How to Crack Workplace Cake Culture

Lou Walker, the Health Coach whose new research found workplaces want cake once a week or less, takes us through her suggestions for rethinking office cake culture, based on her research findings.

Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Start a conversation around workplace cake
Find out what your colleagues think about cake with an anonymous survey (eg Survey Monkey) and discuss the results within teams or departments. If the results suggest people might prefer cake less often, discuss how this could be done.

Make cake special again
Based on your survey results, agree to have a cake day once a week/fortnight/month rather than several times a week. Make this a real occasion which everyone can look forward to and will offer the social get together everyone appreciates.

Eat together with colleagues
Research shows we associate food-sharing with cooperation, trust and a close connection between a small number of eating companions. In the workplace, researchers have found that work colleagues who eat together tend to cooperate more and perform better. 

The cake research found three quarters of the office cake research respondents said cake was displayed on a desk for people to help themselves to during the day. This provides no social benefits because there’s no ‘together’ or ‘sharing’, which are key to the benefits of eating together, not the food.  

How about a picnic lunch, with everyone contributing something for people to share? Or walking to and from the pub together once a month for lunch? (This would be a triple win of food, bonding and exercise!) What about a monthly breakfast?

Consider non-sweet food for workplace gatherings
In a Sugar Smart workplace, do the gatherings have to involve sweet foods? Savoury dips with crisp raw vegetables? Cheese? Savoury muffins? Ask people for ideas. The research found fruit was the most popular alternative, followed by ‘cake, but less often’. Encourage bakers to experiment with lower sugar offerings and perhaps no icing. Or to find savoury alternatives. What about ditching the biscuits at meetings?

Keep stored cakes out of sight (out of mind, out of stomach!)
Store cakes, biscuits and sweets in opaque containers in cupboards rather than in plain sight. It may seem generous to have bowls of sweets around, but in a Sugar Smart workplace, it encourages more sugar consumption. 

Keep the conversation going
What if there are three birthdays in one week? What if someone brings sweet goodies back from their holiday or work trip? Consult colleagues to work out how you want to play it.

Consider non-edible ways to say thank you
Brainstorm ideas for alternatives to chocolates and sweet things. Vouchers? Flowers? Cinema tickets? Some companies have a treat cupboard with different ‘levels’ of gift. Some organisations subscribe to services which provide experiences or gifts of different values. Some meaningful thank yous don’t involve a physical gift - consult colleagues for some inspiring suggestions. An extended lunch break or going home early? A special parking space? A privilege specific to your organisation. Free lunch in the canteen? We’d love to hear what you come up with.

You can get a free copy of Lou’s research report by contacting her through

SUGAR SMART is a campaign run by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. SUGAR SMART is one of the featured campaigns in the UK's Sustainable Food Cities Network.

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