A case of desk diagnosis: UK employees confiding in colleagues about health concerns

27 December 2018 . United Kingdom

Half of employees in the UK (49%) say they speak to colleagues about health concerns before sharing it with a partner or loved one, according to new research.

  • UK employees are confiding in colleagues over loved ones when it comes to their health
  • Media, marketing, IT and HR workers most likely to talk openly with colleagues
  • Topics such as testicular concerns and breast cancer symptoms remain off limits
Colleagues talking over tea

Stress, sleep, anxiety and weight problems are among the main concerns being discussed by employees at work, before confiding in those closest to home.

The new report by Bupa Health Clinics found that 46% of employees prefer to talk about health with a colleague over a loved one. Many do so with good intentions with more than a third (39%) finding it easier to talk to a colleague as they are less likely to worry.

Those working in media, marketing, IT, and HR were among those most likely to talk openly about their health in general at work. Stress tops the list of health issues discussed in the workplace, with those working in education and finance most likely to open up to colleagues about this subject rather than address them at home.

Dr Petra Simic, Medical Director, Bupa Health Clinics, said: “It’s good news that people are opening up about their health and wellbeing with colleagues and we’re not shying away from increasingly common concerns such as stress and anxiety. With us spending so much time at work, the reseach shows the positive impact employers can have on the health of their workplace. From creating a culture where people feel comfortable talking about their health through to offering them a health assessment, this will go a long way to creating a healthy and productive working environment.”

With health becoming an increasingly common topic of discussion in the workplace, 57% of employees said they would visit a GP at work if they had the option. Over a third also said they would book a health assessment if their employer provided access to medical benefits.

However, while three quarters of adults are willing to open up to colleagues about most health concerns, some topics remain off limits. Sexual health, testicular and prostate concerns and symptoms of breast cancer are the health areas least likely to be discussed at work.

And of those who prefer not to talk about health at work, over a fifth (21%) said open-plan offices that limited privacy are the reason why, while one in 10 found hot desking to be a barrier to discussing health at work.

The sectors most likely to talk openly about health at work are:

  1. Sales, media & marketing
  2. IT & telecoms
  3. HR
  4. Healthcare
  5. Education
  6. Retail
  7. Engineering
  8. Travel
  9. Finance
  10. Arts & culture

The 10 most common concerns being discussed with colleagues over loved ones are:

  1. Stress
  2. Sleep
  3. Anxiety
  4. Weight
  5. A niggling symptom
  6. Female health e.g. smear, periods
  7. Smoking
  8. Sexual health
  9. Digestion
  10. Alcohol consumption

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for the major part of our business with 15.7m customers and contributes over 70% of revenue. We operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets, with 15m customers. We care for around 23,000 residents in our UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain aged care businesses.

We directly employ around 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Turkey, the US, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.

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