UK workers are among the least engaged in the world

British employees are less engaged than those from many other major countries, according to a new report.

The Steelcase Global Report: Engagement and the Global Workplace, conducted by global research firm Ipsos, polled more than 12,000 workers from 17 countries around the world, concentrating on the physical workplace environment. It found that the UK ranked twelfth of the 17 countries considered for workplace satisfaction.

Less than a third (29%) of UK workers felt engaged, compared to a global average of 34%. The highest levels of engagement and satisfaction were 53% in India, followed by 44% in both Mexico and South Africa.

This may seem surprising as workplace conditions are often more challenging in developing nations. At the same time, workers in developing economies may have different expectations of their work environments than their counterparts in established countries. 

Employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity are all closely linked and all businesses benefit from engaged staff. Christine Congdon, Director of Research Communications at Steelcase, said that the most engaged workers were generally those who had more control over their work experience, including the ability to concentrate easily and to work in teams without being interrupted.

In the UK almost half of workers were based in open-plan offices, which was more than twice the global average. Around one in five don’t have a fixed base at all, due to hot-desking or ‘nomadic’ working.

There are often sound financial and practical reasons for these practices. UK property prices and office rental costs are among the highest in the world, especially in London. Both open-office and hot-desking can allow available space to be used more effectively but they can also foster disengagement.

A balancing act between effective use of space and staff morale is needed for businesses that wish to avoid the sort of problems that impact financially or lead to the need for corporate recovery or similar measures. To cater for employee needs, employers should provide a range of working environments, including private spaces, meeting rooms and informal break-out areas, to suit different styles and types of work.

By Phil Smith

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