Job quality and workforce wellbeing must be a key focus for Scotland plc post pandemic

CIPD Scotland launches Working Lives Scotland 

CIPD Scotland is calling on organisations in Scotland to increase their focus on job quality and workplace wellbeing, as the CIPD launches Working Lives Scotland, a new report which provides a snapshot of job quality in Scotland. 

The report from the professional body for HR and people development, reveals that work is having a negative impact on both the mental and physical health of a significant proportion of the Scottish workforce. It found that almost a third (30%) of employees in Scotland said that work has a negative impact on their mental health, and more than a quarter (26%) said that they find it hard to relax in their personal life because of their job. 

The survey was carried out by YouGov pre-pandemic and monthly CIPD research since the COVID-19 crisis has shown that wellbeing has continued to deteriorate over the past few months. 

Key findings from Working Lives Scotland include: 

  • Almost a third (30%) of Scottish employees said that work is having a negative impact on their mental health, with a quarter (25%) saying that work is impacting negatively on their physical health.  
  • Of those who have experienced anxiety in the last year, two thirds (66%) say that their job was a contributing factor. More than half (58%) who have experienced depression said that work was a contributing factor.  
  • Presenteeism is a key issue, with more than half (55%) of employees reporting going to work despite not feeling well enough. This level is even higher amongst employees with disabilities (63%). 
  • More than a third (34%) of all employees report their workloads as being too high in a normal week.  
  • 24% always or often feel exhausted at work, 22% said they feel under excessive pressure, and over one in ten (13%) said they feel bored and miserable at work. 
  • Work is also having a negative impact outside the workplace, with 26% of employees saying that they find it hard to relax in their personal life because of their job. 

Other key findings were around flexible working, skills, job security and effective voice: 

  • The report found that there was a good correlation between flexible working and job satisfaction. 
  • 64% of employees reported some levels of overwork, with 15% saying they work 15 or more hours than they would like to in an average week. 
  • Employees in the public sector are more likely to feel they are doing meaningful jobs compared to the private sector. 
  • Only 29% of employees believe their job offers good prospects for career advancement, while 52% believe their job offers good opportunities to develop their skills. 
  • Nearly a fifth (19%) of employees say they have no voice channel to engage with their employers 

Lee Ann Panglea, Head of CIPD Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: 

“Job quality and the idea of good work is fundamental to wellbeing, and supporting a fairer society with motivated workers, productive organisations and a strong economy. 

“We would urge government and policymakers, employers and people professionals to read the report, and to think hard about how we go about re-setting workplaces after the pandemic, to ensure that those in work are doing good-quality fulfilling jobs for which they are fairly rewarded. 

“Worker wellbeing continues to be a challenge and this will only have been exacerbated in the pandemic. Managers should make it a priority to ensure that they are communicating with their staff regularly, whether people are working remotely or in a workplace setting, to ensure that employees can manage their workloads and that they are not under excessive pressure.  

“Going forward, we would encourage employers to give workers more autonomy and control over where, when and how they work, to help them manage work pressures, and increase their wellbeing, all of which will be to the benefit of individuals, organisations and Scotland as a whole.” 

The report’s author, Marek Zemanik, Senior Public Policy Adviser at CIPD Scotland, said:  

”The survey was conducted before the coronavirus outbreak, and we know that some of the measures around wellbeing and job security have already deteriorated since the pandemic, making it imperative for employers to take action on some of the findings in the report. 

“We need to ensure that job quality and fair working practices are at the heart of Scotland’s economic recovery.” 

Professor Patricia Findlay, Co-Chair, Scotland’s Fair Work Convention, said: 

“Scotland’s Fair Work Convention has been very clear that the five core dimensions of fair work - effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect – are crucial to individual well-being, business/organisational performance and to positive economic and social outcomes. Data that help us to better explore how these dimensions are experienced by workers in Scotland, and with what consequences, is of great importance not just to our understanding, but also to designing practice and policy interventions.   

“The CIPD’s Working Lives Scotland report makes for interesting and sometimes challenging reading, and raises provocative questions. Why do lower paid workers report much poorer use of their skills and qualifications? How do we address what appears to be a significant underutilisation of what workers can contribute? How can we avoid employees with disabilities feeling undue pressure to work while unwell?  How can we design work that is challenging, but not too challenging? Does there need to be a trade-off between higher paid work and work-life balance? How could we avoid this?  

All of these questions were highly pertinent before the COVID-19 crisis. The latter has put them into even sharper focus. How employers respond to these issues in the current context will shape Scotland’s progress towards fair work for all for many years to come, and the Fair Work Convention looks forward to working closely with the CIPD on these important issues to ensure that fair work lies at the heart of all of our responses.”

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