The desire for flexible working arrangements has emerged as a critical factor influencing the job decisions of UK workers, with half of those without such options expressing intentions to seek new employment within the next year, according to the annual What Workers Want survey by New Possible, a people insight platform.
The survey, which captured responses from 2,017 UK employees between November 20th and December 8th, 2023, revealed a shifting landscape in the job market.
Flexibility now tops the list of priorities for employees considering a job change, with 50 percent of respondents without flexible working options expressing a desire to switch jobs within the next 12 months.
In contrast to the widely discussed ‘Great Resignation,’ the survey indicates a potential slowdown in the trend, with 33 percent of UK workers expressing an intention to search for a new job in the coming year—a 7 percent decline from the previous two years.
When asked about their expectations for a ‘fair’ pay rise in 2024, employees on average sought an above-inflation increase of 8 percent, slightly below the 9 percent reported for 2023.
Nate Harwood, Founder of New Possible, emphasised the growing importance of flexibility in the current job market, stating, “Companies providing flexible working options are not just stepping ahead; they’re winning the talent war.”
Satisfaction levels vary
Despite an overall job satisfaction rate of 69 percent, a 1 percent decrease from the previous year, satisfaction levels vary across sectors. IT (73%) and finance (72%) sectors lead in job satisfaction, while hospitality (63%), retail (63%), and public services (65%) reported the lowest levels.
Unhealthy work cultures and poor leadership were identified as the primary factors contributing to job dissatisfaction, with pay, staffing shortages, and poor work-life balance also playing significant roles in the decision to seek new employment.
The top five reasons for leaving a job included unhealthy culture, poor leadership, pay dissatisfaction, lack of resources (including staffing), and poor work-life balance. On the flip side, the top five reasons for staying included flexibility, good colleagues, healthy culture, fulfillment, and good benefits.
Wellbeing among employees remains a concern, with 32 percent reporting a decline in 2023 compared to 14 percent noting improvement. The survey also found that 10 percent of employees believe their job is at risk of redundancy, with workers in technology, creative arts, marketing, and hospitality feeling the least secure.
Where is satisfaction dropping?
A notable shift was observed in the creative arts sector, which, despite having the highest job satisfaction in the previous survey, slipped down the table, with 44 percent now considering leaving in the next 12 months. Similarly, satisfaction within hospitality fell by 9 percent to 63 percent, with pay and work-life balance being key drivers.
Interestingly, Gen Z and millennials no longer lead the Great Resignation, with those aged 35-44 being most likely to search for a new role within the next 12 months (40%). Employees over 65 continue to have the lowest likelihood of leaving, at 12 percent.
The complete findings of the ‘What Workers Want’ survey can be found on the New Possible website, providing valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of the UK job market.
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 the 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.