With the onset of the cold and flu season, a recent survey conducted by leading cough, cold, and flu relief brand Benylin has unveiled some concerning insights into the British public’s perceptions of common cold etiquette.

The study, which gathered responses from 2,000 individuals across the United Kingdom, revealed that a significant portion of the population believes individuals exhibiting cold symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing, should stay at home.

Approximately 30 percent of Britons surveyed expressed the opinion that individuals experiencing cold symptoms should avoid public spaces, a statistic that could have significant implications for businesses as they brace for the approaching winter season.

Benylin’s research further exposed a range of anxieties associated with displaying cold symptoms in public.

A notable 42 percent of respondents admitted to feeling uncomfortable about coughing and sneezing in shared spaces, while 28 percent reported feelings of embarrassment when displaying such symptoms.

Additionally, 21 percent expressed concerns about the potential judgmental stares from those around them when they did cough or sneeze.

What about a lack of productivity?

Perhaps most alarming was the revelation that one in ten individuals (10%) identified the workplace as one of the top ten worst places to have a cold. This finding could discourage many from attending work during the cold and flu season, raising concerns about productivity and absenteeism.

According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 54 million working days were lost due to minor illnesses last year. These minor illnesses encompassed ailments like coughs, colds, flu, sickness, nausea, and diarrhoea, which have a considerable impact on both individuals and businesses.

The research highlighted an overwhelming consensus among respondents, with 84 percent believing that there should be greater education and awareness regarding proper coughing and sneezing etiquette. To address this concern and promote a healthier and more comfortable public environment, Benylin has put forth a set of health habits for employees and business stakeholders.

Health Habits for Employees:

  1. Avoid close contact with people exhibiting cold and flu symptoms.
  2. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

Health Habits for Business Stakeholders:

  1. Encourage hand hygiene with educational signage in relevant locations.
  2. Provide easy access to hand sanitizer, running water, and liquid soap.
  3. Maintain a clean office environment, including regular sanitization of frequently touched items such as keyboards, doorknobs, and desks.

Promoting these practices can help protect the health of individuals and those around them while reducing the impact of cold and flu on workplaces and the economy.

Aimée van Vlaanderen, Brand Manager at Benylin, emphasized the importance of managing cold and flu symptoms. She said, “Experiencing cold and flu symptoms can have a physical and emotional toll, as a result of a viral infection. It’s important that people take steps to feel better and to ward off future illness, which is why we have created a guide to cold and flu relief.”

Recognising the unique challenges of maintaining good hygiene in a bustling workplace, Vlaanderen recommended seeking guidance from government and healthcare professionals such as the UK Health Security Agency, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and NHS England for best-practice advice and information.

As the cold and flu season approaches, businesses and individuals alike will need to pay close attention to these insights and best practices to maintain a healthy and productive working environment.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.