Vocation Frustration

New research shows 97% of UK office workers are unhappy

16th November 2018

Almost every UK office worker is unhappy in their job, with many suffering from “vocation frustration”, according to new statistics.

The research, comprised of on an online survey of 2,000 UK office workers, conducted by independent research agency Arlington Research in October, found that a whopping 97% of office-based employees feel frustrated with work, with 89% admitting that they frequently think about changing jobs, and nearly a quarter routinely browsing LinkedIn job ads for something better.

However, a third of those who did switch jobs said that they became equally as frustrated in their new office in under six months.

Most office workers (77%) said that the quality of their workspace has an impact on their sense of personal fulfilment — or lack thereof — and three quarters agreed that a better-functioning and more attractive office would make them more inclined to stay put, according to the research, which was published in a report by office retailer Staples.

Rob MacGregor, national officer for trade union Unite, cited the speed and pace of organisational change as a major contributing factor of workplace unhappiness.

You get a sense of people saying that they don’t recognise the job anymore

“The jobs that people are required to do have always evolved, but the speed at which they’re changing, largely due to automation, digitalisation and the rise of artificial intelligence, is quite extraordinary,” he said. “A lot of people simply can’t keep up.

“Substantial investment in individuals is required to give them the requisite skills to do the roles that are required of them. What employers fail to grasp is that these things often take a long time to see benefits.

“Unfortunately, we have a generation of business owners who only see the bottom line and next year’s annual result, which results in short-termism in how they deal with employees. That’s why you get this sense of people saying that they don’t recognise or like the job anymore.”

Another contributing factor is the determination of employers to drive down costs at any means, added MacGregor. Surveys carried out by Unite found that over half (53%) of all union members regularly work up to five extra hours per week due to unreasonable workloads, and over 70% suffer from symptoms of stress, as well as depression and anxiety attacks.

“It leaves those who are left behind having to do far more with a lot less. There’s not enough of them to do the job that is required.”

Two-thirds of office workers said that the physical environment affected their job satisfaction

Tony*, a 32-year-old company director, cited a “huge imbalance in workload” as one of the main reasons that he is unhappy with his job.

“My employer doesn’t directly ask people to do extra hours, but if I didn’t then things just wouldn’t get done,” he said. 

Additionally, Tony agreed with the 76% of people who said that small, inexpensive investments make office spaces more inviting.

No one chooses to spend time in an unclean, boring place

“The office is dull. I think I’d feel happier with just a couple of plants dotted around the place, or a couple of comfy chairs to relax in at lunch. [It’s] messy, so even a cleaner once a week would make a big difference. No one chooses to spend time in an unclean, boring place.”

He added that the job itself is insufficiently challenging, apart from having to manage a huge workload, which “isn’t the way anyone wants to be challenged”.

“I regularly think about leaving,” he confessed. “It’s purely my own confidence that stops me from doing so. This job is more-or-less stable, and the times I’ve been close to giving notice, having financial stability has been more important to me.”

Juanita Wyght, a 25-year-old digital PR executive, on the other hand, said that after several disagreeable office jobs, she’s finally happy in one.

“My first job out of uni wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. I didn’t end up doing the job I applied for, and when they changed the role, they just expected [me] to accept it,” she explained.

In addition to this, she said she felt “micromanaged” by another staff member, who told her that she couldn’t leave on time and that she had to come in on her day off.

Office supplies

“I could see myself in this role for the considerable future,” she said of her current job. “[It] allows for training and growth so that I don’t stagnate.

“There’s a log of hours to ensure that if more people are needed, this gets put into motion or targets are adjusted accordingly.

“I’m lucky that my employer cares enough to make sure employees are happy. Some perks include Monday breakfast catch-ups, monthly team outings and a massage therapist.”

The research also sampled office workers from other European countries, including Germany (1,000 people), France (500 people), Netherlands (500), Sweden (500), Norway (500), Spain (500), Italy (500), Portugal (500) and Finland (500).

*Names have been changed.


16th November 2018