Worried About an Employee

Employees with eating disorders often present little difficulty at work and excel at their job. Whatever difficulties they have, they will make strenuous efforts to keep to themselves to avoid their disorder being noticed at work. The work situation does not in itself cause someone to develop an eating disorder, although work-related stress can be a factor that exacerbates the problem. Anyone can be affected whatever their level in an organisation.

There are generally three ways that an eating disorder may be brought to the attention of an employer:

  1. The employee will tell you personally – this is unusual but is a positive sign.
  2. Outward signs and symptoms. While some physical changes, such as weight gain, loss, or fluctuations, might become noticeable, the first thing that’s likely to change is the person’s behaviour. They might show increasing stress and anxiety, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, mood swings, irritability, or difficulty concentrating.
  3. Colleagues become concerned and inform the employer of their concern about a fellow worker. This is the most commonly encountered situation. Staff who have an eating disorder may require lengthy treatment or absence to attend appointments. They may need to have their working arrangements, whether hours or responsibilities, altered to take their health needs into account. Staff with managerial or supervisory responsibilities will benefit from understanding how best to support someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses, so policies and procedures around staff illness will be relevant. 

Staff who have an eating disorder may require lengthy treatment or absence to attend appointments. They may need to have their working arrangements, whether hours or responsibilities, altered to take their health needs into account. Staff with managerial or supervisory responsibilities will benefit from understanding how best to support someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses, so policies and procedures around staff illness will be relevant.

If any employees are taking care of someone with an eating disorder, this can take its toll on their physical and mental wellbeing too. Being able to accompany a child or partner to attend appointments or family therapy sessions is vital, and flexible working practices that can accommodate this are extremely beneficial.

If your business involves the retail side of food, clothes, sport, or exercise, you could consider the impact of eating disorders on your customers and clients. None of these areas cause eating disorders, but addressing the issues in a sensitive, informed and compassionate way can make all the difference. Staff who have some understanding of your customers’ needs will give you a competitive advantage.If you are a concerned employer or your business involves areas that may have an impact, you might find it useful to attend one of our Understanding Eating Disorders training sessions. Contact training@beateatingdisorders.org.uk or call 01925 912806. You can also call or email our Helpline for information and advice, and download useful information from our leaflet library.

If you are a concerned employer or your business involves areas that may have an impact, you might find it useful to attend one of our Understanding Eating Disorders training sessions. Contact training@beateatingdisorders.org.uk or call 01925 912806. You can also call or email our Helpline for information and advice, and download useful information from our leaflet library.