John, 26, is looking for a new job. He complains about his long commute, his long hours, and the phone he’s not allowed to turn off. When asked about workplace morale he says his colleagues are “disenchanted because they sense their work is pointless.” After three years studying at Oxford and another two years training to become a solicitor, he finally found a place in London’s so-called ‘Silver Circle’ of corporate law firms. But after six months of the new job, John, who asked me not to use his real name, is looking for a way out and he’s not alone. Almost half of the workers in Britain will be looking for a new job in 2016, with 1 in 5 currently searching for alternative employment, according to a new study.
The survey of ‘job exodus trends’, conducted by Investors in People, reveals that over a third of British workers would prefer greater flexibility at work to a pay rise. These statistics come at the end of long period of wage stagnation in the UK, where unemployment is now at the lowest rate for almost a decade.
Paul Devoy, head of Investors in People, believes that the steady recovery in the job market has shifted the focus of employees towards workplace frustrations and the prospect of greener grass. According to Devoy, “improved salaries over recent months means that pay is less of a gripe for UK workers. But longstanding issues around poor management and how valued people feel in their work continue to make UK workers miserable.”
The report shows that 29% of working Brits are unhappy in their current jobs with poor management cited as the leading cause of unhappiness. Meanwhile, 38% believe they will be valued more elsewhere.
In the City of London, working life is infamously strenuous. A housing boom has forced young workers, including John, into the suburbs. For many this means a tedious daily commute to the office where few leave the desk before 7 pm. It is estimated that approximately 10 million working days are lost due to stress every year in the UK.
“The City is full of workers who were hired because of their impressive academic and extra-curricular records who soon found themselves limited to a diet of financial and commercial documentation,” laments the exhausted solicitor.
John spends three hours a day commuting and is expected to keep his blackberry on at all times. He’s critical of flexible working hours, which he describes as “an extension of the working day into workers’ home lives, meaning that they are unable to switch off.“
So what can organisations do to encourage their staff to feel at home? According to Devoy, “saying thank you, involving employees in decisions and giving them responsibility over their work are basic ways to make staff happier, and more likely to stay.” Meanwhile, a grumbling John has to get back to work, “it’s no wonder people want more time than money.”