Workload stress and lack of job progression highlighted in employee survey

Woman stressed about working overtime and being overworked


One in four workers feel their job negatively affects their mental health, while nearly a third say their workload is too much, according to a new Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development study.

The UK Working Lives survey also shows 11% report regularly feeling miserable at work. More than a quarter (28%) of senior leaders say that they find it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their job and  one in four workers (27%) say that their job does not offer good opportunities to develop their skills, jumping to two in five (43%) among unskilled and casual workers.

The CIPD says the survey represents the first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK, across the workforce at all levels, sectors and regions. It combines previous research on the factors that affect job quality with a survey of a representative sample of 6,000 members of the workforce. It shows that while overall headline satisfaction with work and jobs is reasonable – 64% are satisfied with their jobs, there are significant numbers who feel differently and highlights major systemic issues with overwork, stress and a lack of training and development.

It suggests, for instance, that those at the lower levels far less likely to have access to skills and training – 37% have not received any training in the last year and 43% don’t believe their job offers good opportunities to develop their skills. It also shows those in middle management are feeling significantly squeezed by their workload. Three in 10 (28%) say their work has a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35%) say they have too much work to do.

The survey finds that those at the top of the workforce, in senior manager roles, are the most satisfied with their job, and feel less pressured than middle managers. The primary drawback in these jobs is work-life balance, with more than a quarter of senior leaders (28%) saying that they find it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their job. However, this group has the greatest access to flexible working, with 60% of these workers having the option of working from home in normal working hours. The CIPD says: “Organisations also have to recognise that stress in the workplace typically flows down the business. Managing stress and better work-life balance from the top down is vital to healthy organisations and a culture of good work.”

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said: “The Government has been clear that it wants to improve job quality in the UK, but in order to create quality jobs you have to be able to know one when you see one. We have a record number of people in work, but we have to make sure that we have quality as well as quantity, and that means making sure every job is a good job. That is why we have undertaken the first comprehensive measure to help understand and clearly map job quality in the UK.”

The analysis of the seven dimensions that affect job quality also shows that improving the elements of work that most impact workers’ well-being has a greater effect on job quality than any of the other factors. The CIPD says that organisations who are looking for the first step in improving job quality in their own workplaces would be wise to look at well-being as a starting point.

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Almost half of the surveyed workers (45%) think that their pay is ‘appropriate’ for what they do and 36% do not.
  • 59% would work even if they didn’t need the money
  • 80% of employees rate their relationship with their managers positively
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) would like to reduce their hours

The CIPD has made a number of recommendations, including, for employers, offering clear pathways for progression,
focusing more on the design of jobs and work to ensure best use of skills and clearer progression paths, increasing the provision of flexible working practices across their workplace, monitoring workloads and deadlines to ensure people aren’t feeling under excessive pressure at work and conducting a stress audit.

For government there are also recommendations including introducing mid-life career MOTs and greater investment in careers advice, information and guidance, providing funding for better support for small firms at a local level to help them improve their people management and development practices and promoting the measurement and understanding of good work.

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