Big Work Survey reveals UK’s workplace trends - and 'bigger' problems

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
September 25, 2013, 11:19 AM GMT+0

We are a nation of stressed staff - eating lunch ‘al desko’ as well as working overtime, through holidays and even when we’re ill, according to new YouGov research on behalf of Westfield Health.

The Big Work Survey of 2,011 UK working adults and 520 senior decision makers across Great Britain found businesses could be storing up ‘bigger problems down the line’ because 64% of us admit to being stressed at work.

Scottish workers are the UK’s most stressed workforce compared with Wales who were the least with just 52%. The top three most stressed areas rank are:

  1. Scotland (71%)
  2. Yorkshire & Humber (69%)
  3. North West and West Midlands (66%)

And our colleagues don’t always help reduce our stress levels, it seems, with the top three workers’ annoying habits rated as regular lateness (31%), gossiping (27%) and loud talking (26%).

Many of the businesses surveyed acknowledge stress as a problem in the workplace, with more than a quarter (26%) of bosses saying it is a ‘common pressure’. But nearly all (95%) believe workforce health is important to the success of their organisation.

Working overtime

The research also found that 82% of employees had worked over their contractual hours in the last 12 months, while nearly nine in ten (89%) of UK workers are also guilty of ‘presenteeism’ - when people work even though they are not feeling their healthy best – with three-fifths (59%) admitting they turned up despite being unwell because of work commitments.

Nearly half of us (46%) eat lunch at our desk/place of work, and 54% don’t take breaks (other than lunch) on a typical day. More than a quarter (29%) reveal they have even missed longer breaks by cancelling annual leave because of work pressures.

Other findings

Further findings from the research includes:

  • One third (33%) of senior decision-makers revealed their business offers flexible working hours – while 28% discourage it.
  • Half (50%) of the staff who are offered flexible working say it makes them more productive.
  • Richard Branson would be the ideal ‘dream boss’ for a plurality of UK employees (23%).
  • In reality nearly half (47%) of employees say their actual employer does not create a ‘fun and healthy environment’ to work in.
  • Water is the nation’s drink of choice in the workplace (64%), followed by coffee (55%) and then tea (49%)
  • Of those that find their current job stressful, 47% choose to spend time with their family to unwind after work, while 31% opt for exercise…
  • …but worryingly, more than a third (35%) try to counter stress by drinking alcohol and 27% admit to comfort eating.

Westfield Health’s Executive Director Paul Shires, said: “There are certainly positive signs to be found in this survey, with the majority saying we like our jobs and 59% of bosses rating staff health as ‘very important’. However, things like ‘presenteeism’ are increasingly being recognised as a contributor to lost productivity and potential health costs for employers, as a result of staff performing below par, feeling unmotivated or making errors due to illness.”

Paul added: “Steps to improve worker health can lead to measurable economic benefits which may be greater than the costs associated with sickness absence, as well as boost morale and improve recruitment and retention.”

See the survey results for UK workers

See the survey results for GB senior business decision makers

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