The UK corporate world has made huge strides in prioritising employee wellbeing over the past few decades, but new research suggests that workers are still struggling with finding happiness at work.
One in four UK employees believe that work makes them unhappy, and one in ten report not having even a single good day at work each week.
With only one per cent of UK employees acknowledging the importance of taking a lunch break, and five per cent rating work-life balance as important, the number of unhappy workers may be set to rise.
Research by Robertson Cooper and the Bank Workers Charity (BWC) outlines recommendations for businesses wanting to promote employee wellbeing. According to the report, it starts with employers taking time to understand their people and teams. Ultimately, wellbeing links back to business priorities, including increased productivity, lower sickness rates and better colleague and customer relationships.
The results of the study, which surveyed 1,500 UK adults in the private and public sector, wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Two in three employees are now empowered to talk about wellbeing, and importantly more than half (57 per cent) of people said that work makes them happy.
One in three people surveyed worked in banking, and the results provide an in-depth insight into one of the UK’s most pivotal and fast-changing sectors.
Robertson Cooper and BWC found workers are also out of touch with what makes a good day at work. People did not see ‘non-task’ factors, such as work-life balance, as an influence on their day. Only one per cent said that getting fresh air during the day, and making time for lunch, was important.
Psychologist and head of client experience at Robertson Cooper, Paula Brockwell, dissected the survey data to identify correlations between influencers (such as technology, management style, workplace relationships and conversations) and their impact on people’s physical and emotional energy levels. “Our research showed that your energy levels — both physical and emotional — were the biggest contributors to whether or not you were having a good day at work,” she explained.
Physical and emotional energy levels were influenced by a number of factors — including technology. 50 per cent of bank workers reported that technology makes them angry or slows them down at work, compared to 37 per cent of workers in other sectors.
Management styles impacted heavily on happiness levels: those who weren’t happy at work stated they had a results-focused manager (84 per cent), for example. Similarly, 42 per cent reported not having an accessible manager. In turn, people who have more good days at work were more likely to feel supported (91 per cent), and talk about how they were feeling (61 per cent).
Paul Barrett, head of wellbeing at the Bank Workers Charity, sees the research as a wake-up call, especially for the banking sector. “We’d like to see line managers in banks display more people-focused behaviours at work, to balance the task-centred management style identified in the report. On the other hand, we welcome the fact that bank workers appear to have a strong sense of purpose in their work and enjoy high-quality relationships with their colleagues, both of which are highly beneficial to their wellbeing.”