Quarter of workers say job negatively affects their mental health and a third feel overworked

Quarter of workers feel work negatively affects their mental health, finds CIPD report

One in four workers (25 percent) feel their job negatively affects their mental health, while nearly a third (30 percent) say their workload is too high, according to a brand new report from the CIPD, the UK Working Lives survey. Although the survey found that two-thirds of workers (64 percent) were satisfied with their job overall, one in ten (11 percent) report regularly feeling miserable at work. More than a quarter (28 percent) of senior leaders say that they find it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their job, while over a quarter (27 percent) say that their job does not offer good opportunities to develop their skills, jumping to two in five (43 percent) among unskilled and casual workers. Focusing on the three main groups in the labour market, those at the lower levels are far less likely to have access to skills and training, those in middle management feeling significantly squeezed by their workload and those at the top find it difficult to maintain a work/life balance.

Among workers in low-skilled and casual work, more than a third (37 percent) have not received any training in the last 12 months, while two in five (43 percent) do not believe their job offers them good opportunities to develop their skills. Meanwhile, a concerning trend among workers in middle management, is 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 percent) of these workers say their work has a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35 percent) 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.

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 percent) 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 percent 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.

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.

“In terms of overall solutions, the message is clear: healthy workers are happy and productive workers said Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD. “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.”