Job stress key suspect

The workplace has long been an enabler of Americans' ever-expanding waistlines, and according to an annual survey by CareerBuilder, the stresses associated with full-time employment will likely continue to contribute to the problem.

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers feel they are overweight, up from 55% in 2014. Additionally, 42% of workers say they've gained weight in their present job, up from 39% last year. Twenty-two percent reported gaining more than 10 pounds, while 16% of workers say they've lost weight.

The national survey was conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll between February 11 and March 6, 2015, and included a representative sample of more than 3,000 full-time, U.S. workers across industries and company sizes.

Job Stress May Lead to Weight Gain

The survey reveals a strong correlation between on-the-job stress levels and overweight workers. Fewer than half of workers (47%) with extremely low stress levels feel they are overweight compared to 70% of workers with extremely high stress levels. Meaning, workers with extremely high on-the-job stress are 49% more likely to say they're overweight than workers with extremely low stress.

When asked what they felt contributed to their weight gain at their current job, 37% of workers said "eating because of stress," and 43% said they are "too tired from work to exercise." Sedentary behavior, however, is seen as the leading culprit, in workers' minds. Fifty-six percent said "sitting at the desk most of the day" contributed to the weight gain at their present job.

"The health of a company's workforce is a paramount issue for many employers, as neglecting it can significantly dampen workplace morale and productivity," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. "There's a clear incentive to make wellness and work-life balance a focus of organizational culture, and we're encouraged to see many companies making them a priority year after year."

More than one in four U.S. workers (27%) have access to employer sponsored wellness benefits, including onsite workout facilities and gym passes, but 63% of this group does not take advantage of them.

While hardly surprising, workers who managed to lose weight at their current job tend to snack and eat out less, exercise more, and take advantage of their employers' wellness benefits. Even leaving one's desk for lunch may encourage healthier habits.

Who Is Adding Extra Notches to the Belt?

Industry/Job type: Workers in desk or office-based jobs are more likely to be gaining weight at their present job:

  • Professional & business services: 51%
  • IT: 48%
  • Financial services: 45%
  • Healthcare: 45%
  • Sales: 41%
  • Leisure & hospitality: 39%
  • Manufacturing 39%
  • Retail: 35%

Gender: Women (46%) are more likely to report gaining weight at their present jobs than men (38%).

Job level: Workers in management roles (43%) are almost equally likely as workers in nonmanagement roles (42%) to report weight gains at their present jobs.

Age: Workers in the middle of their careers appear more prone to weight gain than younger or mature workers. Forty-five percent of workers age 35"54 reported gaining weight at their present job, compared to 38% of workers age 18"34 and 39% of workers 55-plus.