Need to know

17 February 2016

Three big health stories from recent weeks – and how they affect small businesses.

A wake-up call for regular post-work drinkers?

A long-hours work culture can sometimes lead to drinking too much1, so new government guidance could be a nudge for regular drinkers to review their alcohol intake.

Why has this been in the news recently?

The Chief Medical Officers of the UK have drawn up new proposed guidelines on alcohol consumption. Previous government guidance set out daily drinking limits of three to four units for men and two to three for women. The new guidance moves to weekly limits to get away from the idea that drinking every day is fine, and recommends that both men and women drink no more than 14 units in a week2.

What are the take-away points for small businesses?

  • Long hours, which are common for people working for themselves and in small companies, could potentially lead to unwise levels of alcohol consumption1. According to figures from, over half of men and women in a study had drunk more than the old daily recommended levels in the past week3, and the new recommended levels are lower than these. If nothing else, the revised guidelines could be a nudge for you and your team to review your drinking habits to check you’re not regularly exceeding the new recommended levels.

  • Bupa’s health information could help you work out whether you’re overly reliant on a drink after work, for example – and what to do if you are.

Sugary drinks and the toll on health

Sweetened drinks can often feel like an easy fix for people with deadlines and stressful jobs.

Why has this been in the news recently?

Drinking sugar-sweetened drinks every day has been linked to an increase in a type of body fat that may affect heart disease and diabetes risk4. Among people aged 19-64 in the UK, men consume on average more than three cans of fizzy drink a week, and women more than two5.

What are the take-away points for small businesses?

  • Sugar is often a quick fix for the time-poor and stressed-out, and a sugary drink can feel like just the thing to get us through the afternoon. But the evidence that sugar-laden food and drink are fuelling the nation’s ill health is increasing with studies such as the body fat study mentioned above.
  • There are plenty of healthy and tasty alternatives to sugary drinks. Our expert dietitian has blogged about straightforward ways of improving your diet at work.

Always on: the impact of email

Research into email habits has some revealing findings about the stress associated with picking up emails on devices.

Why has this been in the news recently?

The Future Work Centre surveyed about 2,000 people about their use of email. The study showed that checking email early in the morning and late at night were linked to higher levels of stress and pressure6. IIt also found that people who automatically receive email on their devices (nearly half of those surveyed) were more likely to say they experience pressure from email. 62% left their email on all day. Download the report (PDF 0.4MB).

What are the take-away points for small businesses?

  • The study concludes with some recommendations. If email isn’t bothering you, that’s great, but if you find you are feeling stressed about incoming messages, a bit of reflection about what you want to achieve with your emails might be helpful. How much is it helping you to have emails automatically come to your phone, for example?
  • If you (or a colleague) are experiencing stress and would like to talk to someone about it, you can call our Mental Health Line in confidence on 0330 123 0268^. We’ll arrange for you to speak to one of our counselors who will listen and guide you to the most appropriate support or treatment. If treatment funded by your health insurance is recommended, there is usually no need to see a GP first.

^ Lines are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm on Saturday.

Access to treatment funded through Bupa health insurance is subject to your benefits and underwriting terms. Pre-existing and chronic conditions are usually excluded.

What's next?

^ Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. We may record or monitor our calls.


  1. Long working hours are linked to risky alcohol consumption. British Medical Journal 2015
  2. New alcohol guidelines show increased risk of cancer,
  3. Consumption.
  4. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is associated with change of visceral adipose tissue over 6 years of follow-up, Circulation, 2016.
  5. High calorie foods and sugary drinks, World Cancer Research Fund
  6. Future Work Centre