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A qualitative study to investigate the drivers and barriers to healthy eating in two public sector workplaces

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Workplaces are a key setting for improving the health of employees and influencing the health of the local population. The present study aimed to provide a deeper understanding of the perceptions and views of staff on the drivers and barriers to the provision, promotion and consumption of healthier food choices in two public sector workplaces.

A mixture of catering and other staff (n = 23) employed by either Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council or Barnsley Primary Care Trust were interviewed. Purposive sampling was used to ensure representation of different grades, job roles, hours worked, gender and age groups. All interviews were conducted in the workplace and were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using framework analysis.

Four themes that influence food and healthy eating in the workplace were identified: workplace structures and systems; cost, choice and availability of food; personal versus institutional responsibility; and food messages and marketing. Interviewees perceived that foods promoted in the workplace were traditional ‘stodgy’ foods and that there was a limited availability of affordable healthy choices. Catering staff were driven to run their service as a business rather than promote health. Time constraints and tight deadlines imposed on staff led to some not eating at midday.

There is little qualitative research published about food in the workplace. This unique qualitative study has elicited staff views and experiences and suggests complexity around healthy eating and food provision in the workplace. The findings may inform the planning of future workplace interventions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2013


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