UK employees are unhappy at work, new study finds

Recognising and rewarding good work is the key to motivating and retaining employees, according to new study.

Around 6.5 million UK workers (or 30 per cent) describe themselves as unhappy at work and would move jobs for better benefits, according to new research from Perkbox, an employee benefits and perks platform.

The unhappiest workers are in Yorkshire and the Humber where two in five (42 per cent) claim to be unhappy at work.

The happiest workers hail from the East Midlands with 80 per cent claiming to be happy.

Happiness increases steadily during the working week, with almost a third (31 per cent) saying they rate happiness as either poor or very poor on Mondays compared to Tuesdays (19 per cent), Wednesdays (12 per cent), Thursdays (11per cent) and Fridays (8 per cent).

Perks for a happy work life

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of UK workers rate company perks and benefits as important to their overall satisfaction and more than a quarter (26 per cent) rating a lack of reward and recognition for good work as their number one grievance at work.

Despite this demand from employees for rewards and benefits, more than half (53 per cent) of UK companies do not formally recognise outstanding employees on a regular basis, while 44 per cent believe that rewards and recognition are either very or extremely relevant to their business.

Younger workers are more likely to be motivated by company perks and benefits than the older generation, with 78 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds versus 58 per cent of 55 – 64 year olds saying that perks and benefits are either important or very important to their overall satisfaction at work.

In London, nearly half (48 per cent) of workers would be likely to switch to a job that offered better benefits and, overall, women are more likely than men to consider work/life balance an important factor in switching jobs (41 per cent vs 35 per cent).

Unhappy at work

As well as a lack of reward and recognition in the workplace, UK workers report that a toxic, negative culture at work was their biggest grievance (21 per cent) while 17 per cent highlighted micro management and 15 per cent said long hours.

The research shows that more men than women would tell their boss if they are unhappy at work (69% vs 57%) while older workers (55+) are more likely to tell their boss if they are unhappy than younger workers.

One in five (20%) workers believe their boss would be moderately or not at all supportive if they told them they were unhappy in their jobs.

Saurav Chopra, CEO and co-founder at Perkbox, says, ‘This research indicates the scale of unhappiness in workers within UK businesses, and goes some way into revealing some of the causes of the nation’s general productivity issues. A single disengaged worker, irrespective of sector, can cost a business over £3K annually in sick leave, lost productivity, training and recruitment.’

Chopra thinks that investment in employee health, well-being and engagement via perks and benefits is often perceived as a costly, non-critical ‘nice-to-have’ rather than an intrinsic tool for incentivising, retaining and recruiting talent.

She continues, ‘Most research already in the public domain indicates that while remuneration might instantly gratify and sway potential employees into accepting a job offer, it’s the non-financial factors that come with reward and recognition that engages and retains workers in the long run.’

Further reading on employee happiness

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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