May 22, 2013
A new study provides some proof that the employee engagement lobby has some validity. According to a new national survey, job stress has gone up and job-related well-being has gone down since the start of the recession, with Britain’s employees feeling more insecure and pressured at work than at any time in the past 20 years. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) report the biggest concern was about pay reductions, followed by loss of say over their job. However, the survey found that where employers pursued employee engagement practices, giving employees more involvement in decision making at work, staff were less anxious about their jobs.
Francis Green, Professor of Work and Education Economics at the IOE, says: “Since the start of the recession, the growth of fear not only of employment loss but of unfair treatment and loss of status was particularly strong in the public sector. Attention should be paid to the deteriorating climate of employee relations in this area.”
The findings, which are based on face-to-face interviews with 3,000 workers, aged 20 to 60 show that people are working harder. “Work intensification”, which was previously rife in the early 1990s, has resumed since 2006. Both the speed of work and pressures of working to tight deadlines have risen to record highs. Technological change is a key factor, but contrary to common belief, work intensification is not associated with downsizing.
The researchers note that employees were more content and less anxious about job or status loss “where employers adopted policies that gave employees a degree of involvement in decision-making at work”.
“The slowness with which employers in Britain are enhancing employee participation is becoming an issue of considerable concern,” says Professor Alan Felstead of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. “In general, better job control entails increased employee involvement and participation. The intention should be to improve the balance between the benefits of hard work and the costs.”
The survey results are among early findings from the 2012 Skills and Employment Survey (SES), which is hosted by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) at the Institute of Education (IOE), London. The survey, conducted every six years, is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Three reports have been published from the data: Fear at Work in Britain, Work Intensification in Britain and Job-related Well-being in Britain.