Research paints gloomy picture of UK workplace
09 December 2022
THE INSTITUTION of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged UK businesses to take better care of their workforce, or risk greater uncertainty.
New research commissioned by IOSH paints a gloomy picture of the UK workplace as a demotivated world of insecurity and weak identity, dogged by a prevailing sense of workers being undervalued.
The research shines a light on an environment where the main emotion is one of existing rather than thriving, where feelings of vulnerability, both in terms of job prosperity and risks to personal health and safety, hide behind a protective workers’ shield of reserved loyalty, rationed commitment and resisted teamwork.
Nearly half of respondents don’t believe their employer has their health and safety in mind, while four in ten don’t agree their work is supportive of their physical and mental wellbeing. At a time when many are feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis, a quarter of employees don’t believe their job is secure, with only a third saying their employer would support them if their job were under threat.
IOSH says the figures are “a huge wake-up call” for bosses. It believes there is likely to be a link between how workers sense they are being treated and their feelings towards their employer, with only two in five giving their best at work and only half feeling loyalty towards them.
Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety for IOSH said, “Businesses need to sit up and take notice. They cannot afford to ignore the results of this survey. It is a huge wake-up call for them; the findings lay out the way the UK’s workforce is feeling right now.
“Businesses need to ensure they are putting their people first and they need to be seen to be doing so. Clearly, many workers don’t believe this is happening in their roles. And there is a clear correlation between employees feeling they aren’t looked after at work and them not giving their best or feeling loyalty toward their employers.”
Key findings from the report, completed last month, showed that:
44 percent disagreed with the statement: “I trust my employer has my safety and health in mind because of the attention they pay to the way we work”
Nearly half (49 percent) disagreed that “the environment in which I work, and the facilities I have been provided with, have been designed and are changed with workers’ comfort and interests in mind”
45 percent disagreed that they were “… protected from any potentially hazardous materials by my employer”
More than a quarter of employees admitted they don’t undertake tasks with any enthusiasm or commitment, while only 61% claimed they give their best, with only a little over half saying they felt loyalty to their employer
Almost 40 percent of workers don’t feel their employer is supportive of their physical and mental wellbeing
Nearly half the workforce doesn’t feel appreciated for the work they do, nor supported by their colleagues.
Yet business leaders and managers, according to the research, see things differently:
Nearly 80 percent think their employees are provided with a safe and comfortable working environment (though 57 percent admitted their employees don’t share the view they are adequately protected)
While only a third of workers felt their employer would support them through a period of job insecurity, 57 percent of managers said they would be helped through the process
The research suggests a similar proportion of UK business leaders and managers derive the same low sense of purpose from their work as their employees – 52 percent.
The research also showed a disappointingly low degree of self-worth and motivation amongst UK workers:
Only just over half (51 percent) said they felt appreciated by people within their organisation for who they were and for the work they did
Less than half (49 percent) described work as somewhere that people communicated openly and respectfully with each other or felt a sense of connectedness with their colleagues
Less than half (48 percent) said they find their work achievable and broadly enjoyable and feel appropriately rewarded for doing it
Only the same percentage claimed their core values were not undermined by the job they did or by the organisation.
IOSH launched its Catch the Wave campaign last year to demonstrate the link between social sustainability and occupational safety and health. It called on business to put people alongside planet and profit, citing the fact there is more scrutiny than ever on how they treat workers.
As part of this drive, IOSH commissioned the survey of 2,152 workers. It also surveyed 992 managers (made up of line managers and senior leaders) to judge if some of the workers’ feelings aligned with their beliefs.
Ruth added: “In this period of major uncertainty, now is the time for employers to step up and demonstrate that looking after their workers is key to their business, showing they value them and the work they do. Failure to do so will have a significant impact on how sustainable a business is.
“Organisations cannot be sustained in the current world of work without committing to protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of their most vital resource: their workers. Socially sustainable organisations are those that recognise the value of their workers, treat them as an asset and invest in them.
“The health and safety profession can help businesses to address these concerns, since social sustainability is unequivocally intertwined with occupational safety and health. What we are saying is that by viewing everything you do through an occupational safety and health lens you can go a long way to ensuring you are a socially sustainable business.
“Through such a lens, you can work towards preventing any hint of modern slavery in your business and supply chain. You can also manage the risks to the mental health and wellbeing of your workforce, ensuring parity between mental and physical health. By investing in your people, for their future and your business’s, you can retain the best talent and ensure your business has the resilience to thrive.”
To find out how health and safety can help businesses develop their social sustainability, go to the free IOSH Catch the Wave ebook