Employees blame their jobs for weight gain, survey shows

More than half of workers attribute ‘the office 15’ to sitting at a desk

Posted April 12, 2016

Feel like you’re gaining weight sitting behind your desk? You’re not alone. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 55 percent of U.S. workers feel they are overweight, and 44 percent of workers say they’ve gained weight in their present job. Twenty-five percent reported gaining more than 10 pounds, while 17 percent of workers say they’ve lost weight.

When asked what they felt contributed to their weight gain at their current job, 53 percent said “sitting at the desk most of the day,” 45 percent said they are “too tired from work to exercise,” and 36 percent of workers said “eating because of stress.”

Is stress to blame?

Survey results reveal a strong association between on-the-job stress levels and workers who say they are overweight. Fewer than half of workers (41 percent) with extremely low stress levels feel they are overweight compared to 77 percent of workers with extremely high stress levels. Meaning, workers who say they have extremely high on-the-job stress are 53 percent more likely to say they’re overweight than workers who say they have extremely low stress.

Stress level of worker

Extremely low




Extremely high

% Overweight






In an effort to help promote healthy living at the office, some employers have put wellness initiatives in place. Still, while a quarter of employees (25 percent) have access to employer sponsored wellness benefits, including onsite workout facilities and gym passes, 55 percent of this group does not take advantage of them.

You are what you eat

Survey data show that 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.


Have lost at current job

Have gained at current job

Eat takeout or dine out at least once per week for lunch



Snack at work



Eat lunch at desk



Take advantage of company gym or wellness benefits



Exercise three or more times a week



Who’s gaining the “office 15”?

Industry/Job type: Workers in certain industries and occupations are more likely to have gained weight at their present job:

  • Transportation: 49 percent
  • Health care: 48 percent
  • Financial services: 46 percent
  • Sales: 46 percent
  • Retail: 40 percent
  • Manufacturing: 39 percent
  • Information technology: 38 percent

Gender: Women (49 percent) are more likely than men (39 percent) to report gaining weight at their present jobs.

Job-level: Workers in management roles (49 percent) are somewhat more likely than workers in non-management roles (43 percent) 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-seven percent of workers ages 35-54 reported gaining weight at their present job, compared to 40 percent of workers ages 18-34, and 43 percent of workers 55 and older.

Survey methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,031 workers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between February 10 and March 17, 2016 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 3,031, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.78 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.


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