Skip to content
Please donate

Over half of Brits avoid talking to their co-workers

Published on 14 May 2015 11:00 PM


Over half of Brits purposely avoid talking to their co-workers

A new Age UK survey* reveals that over half of Brits (57%) dodge conversations with their co-workers(1), with well over a third (40%) avoiding conversations with colleagues on a daily basis. One in four (23%) of the people polled don't even know the names of all the people in their team or department.

The research also shows that sixty-five per cent of Brits have gone a whole day without speaking to anyone in the workplace, revealing the great lengths people will go to in order to get out of non-work related conversations with their co-workers such as pretending to be on the phone (28%) or that they haven't heard their colleague (25%), faking needing the bathroom (25%), making up an urgent deadline (25%) or imaginary meeting (20%)(2). Even more absurdly, one in eight of them will go to the trouble of hiding - either behind their computer, in the toilet, behind a wall or even hiding their head in the fridge!

However, it is not necessarily because people don't want to have a chinwag at work - the major reason given for avoiding a natter is a lack of time, with 41% saying they just don't have enough(2). Interestingly almost half say they would feel isolated (41%) and lonely (38%)2 if they had no one to talk to in the office, and that they feel positive (61%) after a quick chat with their colleagues. Having a good chat can help at work in other ways too: it helps teams bond on a social level and it's even been proven that regular breaks can help our brains and bodies too, leading to better health and wellbeing(3).

With this in mind, Age UK is encouraging people to sign up to 'The Big Chinwag‘ - its nationwide fundraiser on Friday 19th June that encourages Brits to get ‘chin-wagging' for charity. Age UK is calling on schools, businesses, friends and families up and down the country to take the opportunity to have a break from their daily routine in order to enjoy the company of others, have fun and to feel good - and at the same time help raise vital funds to help combat loneliness. It's the perfect excuse to make time for that much needed catch up with a close friend that keeps getting postponed or get to know colleagues that are not on first name terms.

When it comes to our top choice of celebrity we would most like to work with, the chattier the better according to the survey, which shows the top ten celebs that people would most like to work with are TV personalities Ant & Dec (18%), followed by Stephen Fry (15%) and Ricky Gervais (14%)*.

Leading psychologist, Gladeana McMahon, says: 'When faced with social situations many people feel anxious and uncomfortable, thinking that they do not know what to say and will come across as silly or boring. People fear what is often called 'small talk'. If this is the case, a good way to overcome these fears is to focus on the other person and encourage them to do the talking by asking open questions(4) which encourage others to talk more freely about themselves.

'Research shows that having a chinwag has positive effects for an individual's physical and emotional health and well-being. Chinwags also help deal with isolation and relieve stress. The little chats about nothing in particular, but everything in general, can make a real difference.'

The Charity is urging as many people as possible to get behind its Big Chinwag fundraiser on 19th June as sadly, Age UK figures show that one million older people describe themselves as always or often feeling lonely(5) and nearly half of older people (49% of 65+ UK) say that television or pets are their main form of company(6).

Laurie Boult, Head of Fundraising at Age UK, said: 'At Age UK we know how devastating loneliness can be, and it's a huge issue affecting many older people all year round - that's why we are encouraging people to sign up to The Big Chinwag today and be part of the country's biggest conversation. Taking a break and getting to know colleagues better or having a natter with friends and family will not only add some light relief to your day, it will help us raise vital funds to combat loneliness.'

There are lots of ways to organise a Big Chinwag event anywhere - whether it's at work, at school or in the local community. Go to to sign up and download a fundraising pack. Age UK has also launched its own Chinmaker app, where people can share an image of their own ‘pimped up' chin on social media to help raise awareness of The Big Chinwag, go to for more details.

The money raised will help Age UK deliver its much needed national and local services to help combat loneliness. Every penny really does count - just £5 could provide a warm meal in the company of friends, for an older person who lives alone. It's often simple things: someone to chat to, a visit or a call to look forward to, or getting out and about that matter. Regular contact and services from local Age UKs can be life-changing and give older people the confidence they need to feel more connected and less isolated.

Older people and their families can get in touch with Age UK to see how the Charity could help someone who may be feeling lonely by calling Age UK Advice for free on 0800 169 65 65.



For further information, case studies and spokespeople, please contact Megan Fell or Charlie Hamilton at 3 Monkeys Communications / 020 7009 3117.


Notes to editors

*Full list of celebrity results:

1: Ant & Dec (18%)

 2: Stephen Fry (15%)

3: Ricky Gervais (14%)

4: Alan Carr (12%)

5: Jack Whitehall (11%)

6: Michael McIntyre (1%)

7: Lorraine Kelly (9%)

8: Davina McCall (8%)

9: Joanna Lumley (8%)

10. Bear Grylls (7%)


*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from One Poll. Total sample size was 2,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th April - 5th May 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

(1) For this question, respondents were asked if they had avoided having a non-work related conversation with a colleague

(2) For this question, respondents were able to select more than one option

(3) Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Conversation Starters

Many practised conversationalists know that it is possible to have an excellent conversation by getting the other person to do most of the talking, and this can be done by asking simple questions. In order to generate a conversation, it's best to go with open questions. Open questions are those that encourage the other person to talk more freely about him or herself.

(4)Open questions start with words such as What, Where, How, When and Why. For example, 'What attracted to this place? How do you come to know Mike? Why would you like travel to the Amazon? Where would you suggest I find that information?'

In addition to using open questions, many people have found it useful to remember the acronym OPEN as a way of providing a framework to hang their open questions on. OPEN stands for:

Occupation: (e.g. job, past, present including voluntary work)

Personal relationships: (e.g. your family, friends, partner, children or grandchildren etc.)

Environment: (e.g. home, current location, place of birth etc.)

Non-work time: (e.g. leisure activities, hobbies, outside interests)

By asking people open questions about their job, family, environment or leisure activities, they're more likely to instigate a flowing conversation.

(5) TNS Loneliness Omnibus Survey for Age UK (April 2014) surveyed people aged 65 and over. 10% selected Often or Always when asked ‘Thinking about life these days, how often, if at all, do you feel lonely?' Population figures for the UK are estimates based on mid-2012 population estimates, ONS 2013, using the figure of 10,840,900 people aged 65 or over in the UK.

(6) TNS survey for Age UK, April 2014

The Age UK Chinface app

To use the Chinface app, individuals can upload a photo directly to the app, or select one from their Facebook profile. Then they can turn their chin into a face using the digital props available - including hair, googly eyes and hats - to make it unique and funny.

Once they're happy with their creation, individuals will have the option to share their chinface on social media immediately.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ('we'). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

Share this page

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top