ONE in three UK employees is “coasting” at work – and the main cause appears to be unhappiness with their current workplace.
A report entitled Why BWell from Barnett Waddingham calculates that one-in-three figure means more than ten million workers are lagging. The report comes as the UK battles to solve a productivity crisis which has seen output slow more than any other leading western economy.
The report, created through interviews with 3,000 UK workers, was undertaken to gain insights into health and wellbeing in the workplace. When respondents were asked how they were coping at work, just over half (55 percent) were positive about their performance. A third (32 percent) admitted to coasting, and seven percent said they were struggling.
The coasters are split into two groups: those who make the conscious choice to do so, and those affected by dysfunction within the workplace, or problems with the employer or role. While three in five coasters were generally content in their lives, only around a third (36 percent) were happy at work – suggesting that many could be mobilised to becoming better performing workers if employers could figure out how to make them happier at work.
One key cause of this discontent is employees lacking a sense of purpose. Less than half (47 percent) of those who coast say their job is meaningful to them and adds value to their lives. Among those excelling in their occupations, nine in ten (89 percent) feel that way. Just two in five coasters (39 percent) believe their employer makes best use of their skills.
Another contributing factor is the perceived effort that employers make. Coasters are less likely to feel recognised for the contribution they make, and almost a third say no interest is shown in them as a person.
An incentive for employers to address this issue is the fact that — statistically — coasters are likely to move on. Two in five did not think they would remain in their current job for another 12 months, compared to just one in 10 of the flourishing workers. According to Oxford Economics, the average cost to replace an employee is around £30,000 – so high staff turnover can have a major financial impact.
Happiness may also directly influence productivity, with one study finding that happy employees are 20 percent more productive. “Mental health is beginning to get some of the attention it deserves in workplaces,” says Laura Matthews, workplace wellbeing consultant at Barnett Waddingham, “and thankfully, more employers are now looking out for the signs of issues such as stress and anxiety.
“This is great progress, but … employers should be thinking more broadly about employee happiness and the positive impact this can have on all areas of the business, from productivity and innovation to profitability and corporate reputation.
“A third of our workforce is applying just enough effort to get by, and go home at the end of the day. Our research shows that these are not lazy or unambitious people, but often those lacking purpose or confidence in their ability to add value.
“Mobilising this group to start excelling at work is worth a huge amount to UK companies.”