obesity

A crisis meeting at NHS Worcester produced a bizarre array of possible solutions to the problem of obesity. Amongst the weirdest was to force employers to build the company car park a mile away from the office, so that staff are required to build some walking into their day. Presumably the prospect of staff spending half the day fetching things from the car is one for the productivity team to worry about.

This wasn't the only unusual suggestion at the meeting: and this isn't the only time that employees have been subjected to odd ideas in the name of good health.


According to a report in the Worcester News, one idea floated at the meeting was that school children could be forced to take skipping lessons in order to burn off their puppy fat. They also suggested (less controversially) that they could be taught to cook healthy meals at school. Dr Frances Howie, assistant director of public health at NHS Worcestershire, told the meeting: "we cannot carry on as we are."

The Daily Mail reported that Howie added: 'If we don't get it right, in the years to come all we'll end up dealing with is overweight people and those who suffer from alcohol abuse."

Not the first

And while these ideas may sound off-the-wall, it's not the first time this sort of suggestion has seen the light of day. At the end of last year the National Institute for Clinical Excellence issued guidance, encouraging planning groups, employers and schools to 'promote active travel'. One of the suggestions around at the time was to make car parking charges higher and offer free bike parks.

Perks

For many employers this sort of lifestyle engineering of their employees is a step too far. However, for others, this is exactly the sort of thing they have been doing for years. There are a number offering on-site gyms, but NetApp in the US has volleyball courts. Google, meanwhile, is known for the bowling lanes in its offices, which presumably lead to some very strong right arms.

In the UK, meanwhile, there are employers offering suites for power naps in the office, an office pet to keep staff calm, lunchtime yoga sessions and onsite massages. One media company employs office 'mums' to talk to younger employees and make sure they are handing the pressure at work.

Some of these more unusual benefits have become mainstream. Employee Benefits magazine found that 9% of employers offer free fruit to staff, 10% offer nutritional advice and 47% offer an advice service that staff can approach about anything from aches and pains to stress and bereavement.

So what do you think? Are free bananas and inconvenient car parks the answer to the obesity problem? Let us know in the comments.