British employees less confident and more stressed over last three years

UK employees could be heading for crisis, according to a three-year study by ADP, which has found that three key measures of employee wellbeing – optimism, stress and skills confidence – have taken a hit since 2015. The exact reason for the changes is unclear, however the timings suggest that Brexit may have played a part, along with the rise in new technologies entering the workplace.

As part of The Workforce View in Europe (registration required), ADP has surveyed up to 1,500 UK employees every year since 2015, to track their attitudes and perspectives on work. This year’s findings reveal that just three quarters (75 percent) of respondents feel very or quite optimistic about their future in the workplace, a drop of 6 percent since 2015. The fall in optimism is even more pronounced amongst employees in so-called Generation Z, who have seen an 8 percent decline in positivity since 2015 (from 91 percent to 83 percent), perhaps driven by their opposition to Brexit.

Adding to these concerns, respondents are also feeling less confident about their skills than they were in 2015, perhaps due to rise in new technologies entering the workplace. Just 80 percent now believe they have the skills and training to succeed in their role, down 8 percent on three years ago. Meanwhile, the proportion who say they have no confidence in their skills has more than doubled from 2 percent to 5 percent over the same period. Generation X workers – those between the ages of 35 and 44 – have been the most affected, with their confidence down 11 percent since 2015.

This lack of confidence could be one of the reasons why stress levels have also risen in the workplace, with one in five employees (20 percent) now saying they experience stress every day, up from just 11 percent in 2015. Prolonged stress can be a precursor to more serious mental health issues, which now affect one in four people every year. Yet, the findings indicate that many employers are still not doing enough to help their staff cope with the pressure.

“UK businesses are going through a period of enormous change,” comments Jeff Phipps from ADP.  Alongside the continued drive for digital transformation and the introduction of new technologies, there have been significant changes in the political landscape, such as Brexit. Change management has become the new normal for employers, yet employees are still struggling to keep up. Unsure of what the future holds, their optimism is waning, they’re unsure of their skills, and their stress levels are reaching boiling point.

“Employers have a vital role to play in reversing this worrying trend. The winners will constantly evaluate their relationship with their workforce, using transparency to build trust. They will provide development and support to build a committed workforce, able to adapt to the pace of change and prosper not just in a financial sense but also by working for organisations who demonstrate a commitment to their shared values.”