CIPD ‘Working Lives’ Survey Points to Overwork, Wellbeing As Key Challenges for UK Workforce

CIPD ‘Working Lives’ Survey Points to Overwork, Wellbeing As Key Challenges for UK Workforce

The UK Working Lives report, billed by the CIPD as its first comprehensive survey of the British workforce based on its new Job Quality Index, was released on Wednesday. Surveying around 6,000 workers throughout the country, the report aims to produce a clearer and more objective picture of the quality of the jobs available to employees in the UK, “using seven critical dimensions which employees, employers and policy makers can measure and focus on to raise job quality and improve working lives”:

The health and value of the modern economy has long been gauged purely on quantitative measures such as gross domestic product, growth rates and productivity. A concerted focus on advancing the qualitative aspects of jobs and working lives will prove to be the next step forward.

Overall, the picture the report paints of the British workplace is positive for a majority of employees: Most said they were satisfied with their jobs, while 80 percent said they had good relationship with their managers and 91 percent said they had good relationships with their colleagues. Nearly 60 percent said they would choose to work even if they didn’t have to. Nonetheless, substantial numbers of respondents identified overwork, stress, and mental health concerns related to their jobs, pointing to shortcomings in the impact work is having on their quality of life.

Three in ten workers told the CIPD they suffered to some extent from “unmanageable” workloads, while 6 percent said they were regularly swamped with “far too much” work each day. While 30 percent reported feeling “full of energy” at work most of the time, 22 percent said they often felt “under excessive pressure,” another 22 percent said they felt “exhausted,” and 11 percent reported feeling “miserable.” And although 44 percent said work had a positive impact on their mental health overall, a full 25 percent said the opposite. In terms of their physical health, only 33 percent said they thought work had a positive impact versus 27 percent who said its effect was negative.

These problems are particularly acute for middle managers and mid-level professionals, who reported concerns about pressure and mental health at higher rates than low-skilled and casual workers or senior managers: 31 percent of middle managers and 23 percent of mid-level professionals reported feeling overloaded or under excessive pressure, while 28 percent of workers in these categories said they felt their work negatively affected their mental health. Overall, 65 percent of these workers said they were satisfied with their jobs.

Stress and mental health issues in the UK workforce have been showing up in surveys for a few years now: A 2016 survey, for example, found that 75 percent of UK workers had felt stressed at work over the prior year but most felt uncomfortable talking about depression or stress in the workplace. A study last year of fit notes written by general practitioners for employees on sick leave showed that nearly a third of those notes written between December 2014 and March 2017 were issued for mental and behavioral disorders.

In terms of work-life balance, two-thirds of all employees surveyed by the CIPD said they would like to reduce their hours, while the average worker said they worked five hours a week more than they would prefer. Contrary to fears of the gig economy and contingent work eating up full-time and permanent jobs, underemployment, the Working Lives survey found that underemployment and precarious work were not issues for most of its respondents, 74 percent of whom were in permanent full-time or part-time employment. Only 2.9 percent said they were on zero-hour contracts and only 2.7 percent said they had taken part in the gig economy, while 19 percent said they were self-employed. Most of the workers in these circumstances, the CIPD report adds, are either in the 18-24 age cohort or over 65 and semi-retired.

Now for more of the bad news: Many workers in low-skill and casual positions said they had few opportunities to develop their skills and advance in their careers, with 32 percent of this cohort saying they had not received any training in the past 12 months. While more workers said they thought their pay was appropriate (44 percent) than not (36 percent), the report also found that one in four workers was earning less than the real Living Wage.