Ambiguity exists regarding the effectiveness of workplace dietary interventions. Rigorous process evaluation is vital to understand this uncertainty. This study was conducted as part of the Food Choice at Work trial which assessed the comparative effectiveness of a workplace environmental dietary modification intervention and an educational intervention both alone and in combination versus a control workplace. Effectiveness was assessed in terms of employees' dietary intakes, nutrition knowledge and health status in four large manufacturing workplaces. The study aimed to examine barriers to and facilitators of implementing complex workplace interventions, from the perspectives of key workplace stakeholders and researchers involved in implementation. A detailed process evaluation monitored and evaluated intervention implementation. Interviews were conducted at baseline (27 interviews) and at 7-9 month follow-up (27 interviews) with a purposive sample of workplace stakeholders (managers and participating employees). Topic guides explored factors which facilitated or impeded implementation. Researchers involved in recruitment and data collection participated in focus groups at baseline and at 7-9 month follow-up to explore their perceptions of intervention implementation. Data were imported into NVivo software and analysed using a thematic framework approach. Four major themes emerged; perceived benefits of participation, negotiation and flexibility of the implementation team, viability and intensity of interventions and workplace structures and cultures. The latter three themes either positively or negatively affected implementation, depending on context. The implementation team included managers involved in coordinating and delivering the interventions and the researchers who collected data and delivered intervention elements. Stakeholders' perceptions of the benefits of participating, which facilitated implementation, included managers' desire to improve company image and employees seeking health improvements. Other facilitators included stakeholder buy-in, organisational support and stakeholder cohesiveness with regards to the level of support provided to the intervention. Anticipation of employee resistance towards menu changes, workplace restructuring and target-driven workplace cultures impeded intervention implementation. Contextual factors such as workplace structures and cultures need to be considered in the implementation of future workplace dietary interventions. Negotiation and flexibility of key workplace stakeholders plays an integral role in overcoming the barriers of workplace cultures, structures and resistance to change. Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN35108237 . Date of registration: 02/07/2013.
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