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Quarter of workers say their job negatively affects their mental health

11 Apr 2018 By Nadine Buddoo

New CIPD survey suggests middle managers are particularly affected, while lower-paid staff lack training and development opportunities

One in four workers feel their job negatively affects their mental health, according to a new CIPD survey published today (11 April) that seeks to accurately measure job quality and quantify the idea of ‘good work’ in the UK.

The UK Working Lives survey was launched in the wake of the government’s commitment to measure job quality, and the Taylor review into employment practices. The first annual survey looks at what the CIPD refers to as the ‘seven dimensions’ of job quality – and measures the importance of each one to the UK workforce. 

One in 10 respondents reported regularly feeling miserable at work and one in five (18 per cent) were dissatisfied with their jobs.

Despite casting a shadow over workforce happiness and mental health, the findings indicated that two-thirds of workers (64 per cent) were satisfied with their job overall.

Workers in middle management feel particularly strained: 28 per cent in this group said their work had a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35 per cent) said they had too much work to do. 

These figures are slightly lower when considering the overall workforce, with one in four (25 per cent) feeling their job negatively affected their mental health, and a third expressing concerns over their workload.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, identifies key challenges for the three main groups in the labour market. 

Those at the lower levels of the corporate hierarchy are far less likely to have access to skills and training, middle managers feel significantly squeezed by their workload, while senior leaders experience difficulties fulfilling personal commitments because of their job.

Workers in lower-paid roles reported suffering from a lack of skills training and development opportunities in particular. 

Among those in low-skilled and casual work, more than a third (37 per cent) had not received any training in the last 12 months and 43 per cent felt their job did not offer good opportunities to develop their skills.

The outlook isn’t all doom and gloom: 80 per cent of employees rated their relationship with their managers positively, and more workers felt their pay was ‘appropriate’ for their role (45 per cent) than those who did not (36 per cent). However, 59 per cent said they would continue working even if they did not need the money, while nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) would like to reduce their hours.

Speaking to People Management, CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese, said: “There are some key messages that have come out of the survey. First, you have the lower end of the workforce spectrum who are not always feeling well supported, are not given a lot of resources in terms of training, and lack sight of progression. Then above them you have managers who are very broadly stressed. That’s a pretty heady mix.

“The reality is if you’re over-stressed as a management team, you’re not going to be so good at managing or looking after your people, and stress flows downhill. Those are some very important dilemmas to understand.”

Cheese said that clearly defining ‘good work’ provides a real goal to aim for in terms of creating organisations, jobs and roles that make sense for people, utilise their skills and give them progression.

In light of the findings, the CIPD recommended several solutions for employers and the government to help improve job quality. 

“In terms of overall solutions, the message is clear: healthy workers are happy and productive workers. If there’s one ultimate aim in job quality, it should be to improve the wellbeing of our workers,” said CIPD senior adviser for organisational behaviour Jonny Gifford.

“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.”

The CIPD recommended that employers offer clear pathways for progression – for example, apprenticeships and mentoring schemes – as well as focus more on the design of jobs and work to ensure the best use of skills and clearer progression paths. 

Employers were also urged to ensure that all employees have a meaningful voice in the organisation through both individual and collective channels, and via formal and informal mechanisms.

Speaking at an event to launch the report today, Cheese added that the findings mattered because the CIPD had “set ourselves the purpose of championing better work and better working lives”. 

He added: “We profoundly believe that the goal of the people management profession should be to help people get on in work, to give them opportunity, to develop them and to make the most of their talents, which helps make the most of organisational outcomes. In the end, doing this well is good for individuals, organisations, economies and society at large.

“This subject is a really key one, and when you look at organisations that look after their people, give them a voice, train them properly and engage them effectively, we know this drives positive economic outcomes, and outcomes for people and organisations. What we’re trying to do through all this is provide more insight, more evidence, more transparency and more guidance as to what really works.”

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