The CIPD has today launched the UK Working Lives survey, which seeks to establish how good job quality is in the UK.  This new and comprehensive annual survey looks at seven dimensions of job quality gathered from widespread research and measures how important each one is to people in work.

Coming on the heels of the Government’s commitment to measure job quality and the Taylor Review, the survey represents the first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK, across the workforce at all levels, sectors and regions. Combining previous research on the factors that affect job quality with a 6,000 sample survey, representative of the whole UK workforce, the results show that while overall headline satisfaction with work and jobs is reasonable, there are significant numbers who feel differently, and importantly some major systemic issues with overwork, stress and a lack of training and development.

The survey finds that two-thirds of workers (64%) say they are satisfied with their job, with just one in five (18%) dissatisfied. However, the survey helps to identify the key challenges for three main groups in the labour market, with those at the lower levels far less likely to have access to skills and training, and those in middle management feeling significantly squeezed by their workload.

Stuck in low-skilled jobs

Those further down the chain suffer from a lack of skills training and development opportunities. Among workers in low-skilled and casual work, more than a third (37%) have not received any training in the last 12 months, while two in five (43%) do not believe their job offers them good opportunities to develop their skills.

This lack of development opportunities risks leaving workers stuck and unable to progress, and is not effectively developing or utilising their skills. Employers and the Government need to continue the renewed focus on supporting skills development in all types of work and for people beyond the age of 25, but also in the nature and design of jobs that help get the best out of people and show them progression paths for the future.

Squeezed middle managers

The survey finds a concerning trend among workers in middle management, which paints a picture 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%) of these workers say their work has a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35%) 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.

Satisfied senior leaders

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%) 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% 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.