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Majority of UK workers keeping secrets at work

Workers are unlikely to disclose their sexual orientation, mental health issues or family problems at work

Research released to mark the fifth annual National Inclusion Week suggests that around two-thirds (60%) of workers keep aspects of their lives hidden at work, with family difficulties the most likely aspect to be hidden (46%). Nearly a third (31%) would not discuss mental health issues and 20% would hide their sexual orientation.

Age is apparently a factor, with 67% of 18- to 24-year-old respondents more likely to hide things from their employer compared to 55% of over 55s.

Richard McKenna, director of Inclusive Employers, the inclusive workplace membership organisation behind the research and National Inclusion Week, said: “It is worrying to see that even today six out of 10 workers in the UK are keeping a part of their personality hidden at work.

“The fact that younger employees are more likely to hide things is in stark contrast to popular belief about the Millennial generation over-sharing. In reality they need to be supported around the complex conversations in the workplace and in how their manager will respond.”

The research also revealed that 26% of people would feel less connected to their workplace if they felt they had to hide issues, while 18% said their performance would suffer.

On the issue of difficult conversations in the workplace, a third (31%) said family and personal life figured highest, with salary negotiations the next most challenging topic of conversation.

McKenna said that although society has come a long way, businesses need to do a lot more to make their workforce feel more included and comfortable.

“This is the responsibility and opportunity of management at every level, from boardroom culture and leadership, to line manager interactions and knowledge about how to handle sensitive conversations,” he added.

“We encourage all employers to connect with their staff and to provide the support and training that many of us will need to be able to have more open and honest discussions about the things that are worrying us.”

Bus operator Stagecoach is actively involved in inclusion initiatives and has backed National Inclusion Week to highlight its importance across the group.

“Across our businesses, we've been supporting a range of activities highlighting the importance of keeping an open, welcoming and inclusive working environment for all – with daily challenges, posters, blogs and webinars supported by Inclusive Employers,” the firm’s group talent manager Kate Thompson told HR magazine.

“Promoting inclusion is important to us as we're working towards our shared goal of delivering an excellent service for all of our customers. We understand that to be a successful team it’s crucial that we support each other and celebrate our differences within a positive and progressive working environment.”

McKenna highlighted the positive impact that a healthy and happy workforce can have on individuals and business performance. “Employers now have an urgent need to ensure inclusion is understood as commercially critical rather than a charitable nice to have.”