Google’s experiment against office overeating

Google office

Even if you try to eat mostly healthy food at home, it doesn’t work in the same way when you are in the office. Here you are treated to someone’s cookies, there you had a piece of cake at the colleague’s birthday celebration, then you went to get coffee, and grabbed a pack of chips along the way.

All this in a perfectly logical way leads to the fact that you begin overeating. And this, in turn, seriously increases the caloric content of your menu, increasing the probability of the extra kilos gain.

Snacks “for everyone” in the office are a scheme that is used quite often. According to a poll held by Jobvite, free food in the open space as a bonus is more common than free medical services (insurance) or educational programs. You probably have seen an ad for a job, where the list of advantages of the vacancy included

“Coffee and cookies in unlimited quantities”

And you probably saw such ads more than once.

In fact, simply the presence of not the most useful snacks in the workplace (or more precisely – in the zone of visibility) can become a problem. Add stress, multitasking and boredom – and we have a perfect background for mindless consumption.


Hunger that you feel often is much weaker than the real hunger is. The amount of food that we eat in the office is based on such things as:

  • stressful overload,
  • lack of work at one time or another,
  • attempt to improve mood,
  • fatigue.

When food is readily available and free of charge, we are more likely to reach out to it, even if we do not really want to.

Researchers from the Cornell Food and Trade Lab gave several secretaries containers with chocolate sweets to see how many will be eaten during the day. As a result, when the bonbons stood on the secretaries’ desks, they were eaten by 48% more than when they stood at a distance of two meters. Besides, it was recorded that the secretaries ate two bonbons more, if the containers were transparent.


A similar experiment was held in Google – with the “participation” of M&M’s and expert help from scientists from the Yale University. At first, the company’s employees were asked to put candy in their own glasses.

Subsequent replacement with M&M’s bags reduced the average consumption by 58%, which allowed deducing the fact that with unlimited possibilities we always take more than we want.

Approximately the same thing happens with the buffet” in hotels and restaurants.

Then, the candies were placed in opaque containers and placed next to the glass jars, in which they put healthy snacks – dried fruits and nuts. As a result, in the New York Google office alone, employees received 3.1 million calories from M&M’s in seven weeks, which is equivalent to nine packs for each of 2000 employees.

Then, the experiment switched to drinks: ordinary water was bottled and located at the level of the eyes behind a clear glass, while sweet soda in bottles was placed below the eye level behind the frosted glass.

This allowed increasing the water consumption in the offices by 47%, while the consumption of sweet soda rose by only 7%.

Here, one must not forget that all this was free of charge, so even the last indicator (consumption of soda), despite a slight increase, should be considered conditionally positive.

Traci Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, notes that the lack of the need to pay for a dish deprives us of one of the main “forbidding” factors, and so it can be very, very difficult to stay away from it.

Just like in the study with the secretaries and chocolates, the Google study showed that the location of the snacks in the office and their appearance do matter. During the study, it was found out that the closer the water cooler is to the table with snacks, the more likely that along with water, tea or coffee, we will carry sweets and biscuits to the work table.

As the experiment showed, such drink with “supplements” will add each office worker about a kilogram of fat per year. Impressive, right?