UK staff disillusioned by lack of work-life balance

The UK workforce is one of the most disillusioned in Europe, according to a major European study.

Only 17% of UK employees are completely satisfied with their work-life balance, and just 15% are happy with their working environment. About 40% regard work as a mundane routine.

The study of almost 10,300 workers in eight countries, by employee benefits firm Accor Services, highlighted large discrepancies between the UK and the rest of Europe. Four in 10 UK workers said they often thought about taking a break from their jobs – the highest in Europe – compared with just 20% of Belgians and 18% of Hungarians.

Swedes were found to be the most content employees, with 56% saying they often feel happy at work, and almost one-quarter (23%) rated their work-life balance as very satisfactory.

UK staff were also found to be more opportunistic than their European colleagues. Twice the number of UK workers are planning to leave their jobs (12%) than their German and French counterparts (both 6%). And more than 40% of the UK workforce have seriously considered leaving their company, compared with only 23% of Germans.

Laurent Delmas, managing director of Accor Services, said the findings showed that the UK had an exceptionally fluid job market. “UK staff understand the importance of employability and having lots of different experiences. It’s no longer a job for life,” he said.

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said the new generation of UK workers had significantly higher expectations than in the past. “People entering the job market now have a very different attitude compared with older workers,” he said. “Work-life balance, corporate social responsibility and ecological issues are all important to the so-called ‘generation X’.”

Delmas agreed. “There has been a mental revolution towards work. The younger generation are less committed,” he said.

To improve commitment levels, Delmas said it was essential for employers to communicate their benefits package and show employees what was on offer to them. “Communication is critical and it is traditionally a subject that employers haven’t necessarily been very good at,” he said. “But progressive UK companies are really making an effort to improve this and want to reach their workers.”

But Meager said, overall, UK employers should not be too alarmed by the findings. One-third of UK workers said they often felt happy at work, and 46% said they felt suitably involved in their work. “The message for employers is not that they need to worry. You can overstate the role that benefits play in engagement they are not necessarily the main driver of staff commitment.”

HR practices are becoming increasingly homogenised across Europe, meaning many international companies have similar HR policies, he added. That meant the UK was catching up with the rest of Europe on issues such as childcare and flexible working policies.




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