Two-thirds of workers (64 per cent ) are satisfied with their job overall, with just one in five (18 per cent ) dissatisfied. One in ten (11 per cent ) report regularly feeling miserable at work

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has today launched the UK Working Lives survey, which seeks to establish how good job quality is in the UK.  This new and comprehensive annual survey looks at seven dimensions of job quality gathered from widespread research and measures how important each one is to people in work.

Coming on the heels of the Government’s commitment to measure job quality and the Taylor Review, the survey represents the first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK, across the workforce at all levels, sectors and regions. Combining previous research on the factors that affect job quality with a 6,000 sample survey, representative of the whole UK workforce, the results show that while overall headline satisfaction with work and jobs is reasonable, there are significant numbers who feel differently, and importantly some major systemic issues with overwork, stress and a lack of training and development.

The survey finds that two-thirds of workers (64 per cent ) say they are satisfied with their job, with just one in five (18 per cent ) dissatisfied. However, the survey helps to identify the key challenges for three main groups in the labour market, with those at the lower levels far less likely to have access to skills and training, and those in middle management feeling significantly squeezed by their workload.

Stuck in low-skilled jobs

Those further down the chain suffer from a lack of skills training and development opportunities. Among workers in low-skilled and casual work, more than a third (37 per cent ) have not received any training in the last 12 months, while two in five (43 per cent ) do not believe their job offers them good opportunities to develop their skills.

This lack of development opportunities risks leaving workers stuck and unable to progress, and is not effectively developing or utilising their skills. Employers and the Government need to continue the renewed focus on supporting skills development in all types of work and for people beyond the age of 25, but also in the nature and design of jobs that help get the best out of people and show them progression paths for the future.

Squeezed middle managers

The survey finds a concerning trend among workers in middle management, which paints a picture of a group of people who have too much on their plate, which is having a detrimental effect on their well-being. Three in ten (28 per cent ) of these workers say their work has a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35 per cent ) say they have too much work to do. When taken together, this is an unsustainable cocktail that employers need to address by placing a greater focus on well-being in the workplace. Addressing cultures of presenteeism and encouraging more flexible working are critical longer term challenges organisations need to address.

Satisfied senior leaders

The survey finds that those at the top of the workforce, in senior manager roles, are the most satisfied with their job, and interestingly 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 per cent ) saying that they find it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their job. However, this group does have the greatest access to flexible working, with 60 per cent of these workers having the option of working from home in normal working hours. 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.

Commenting, 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.

“Headline job satisfaction is reasonably strong, and that is to be welcomed. However, it is clearly lacking for many people, and that headline masks some serious structural issues in the UK labour market.

“Those in management positions are often overworked, which can not only lead to stress and poor mental health, but also means they are not able to manage their teams to the best of their ability. Stress in the workplace passes down, and combined with the concerning lack of training and development opportunities for those in low-skilled work, is a heady mix which needs to be better understood and addressed to enable better productivity and well-being across all organisations.

“With employment levels high, challenges remain around productivity, and so organisations have to prioritise working smarter, not just harder. We need to ensure that we’re designing our jobs flexibly and in ways that best utilise the skills of the workforce, implementing positive health and well-being strategies, and tackling workplace cultures of stress and giving voice and support to our people. Alongside that, we need to give those looking to develop their skills the ability to do so, through workplace learning and wider investment in skills development to make sure we’re making the most of all the talent that people have.”

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 believes 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.

Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said:

“In terms of overall solutions, the message is clear: healthy workers are happy and productive workers. If there’s one ultimate aim in job quality it should be to improve the well-being of our workers.

“We also need to look closely at the main factors that facilitate or get in the way of better quality jobs. More extensive training and development must be part of the solution, so workers can develop in their careers and feel more fulfilled in their work. There are also many things employers can do that make a real difference – in particular, fostering better workplace relationships and giving employees voice and choice on aspects of their working lives.







Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.