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Poor Workplaces Present Key Challenge for the UK

Poor Workplaces Present Key Challenge for the UK

Britons in subpar work environments rate lives more poorly, are less happy

by Elizabeth Mendes and Lymari Morales

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Work environments emerge as a key challenge for Britons according to the inaugural findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the United Kingdom. When the U.S. and the U.K. are compared across six key areas of well-being, the U.K. lags behind the U.S. the most in terms of workers' perceptions of their workplaces.

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Britons' overall Well-Being Index score of 64.3 falls slightly behind Americans' 66.4 during the first three months of daily Gallup-Healthways surveys conducted in each country this year. Along with less positive assessments of their work environments, Britons rate their lives overall far less positively than do Americans. This results in a Life Evaluation Index score that is six points lower than Americans' Life Evaluation Index score. While Britons do slightly better than Americans on the Healthy Behaviors and Basic Access sub-indexes of the overall Well-Being Index, their Emotional Health score is identical and their Physical Health score is essentially the same as Americans' scores on these measures.

These findings are based on combined results from the first three months of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracking in the U.K. Gallup surveyed 3,933 residents in the U.K., and of that number, Gallup asked 1,682 employed respondents the Work Environment Index items.

Employee-Supervisor Relationship Biggest Issue in U.K. Workplaces

U.K. employees give their workplaces lower ratings than do U.S. workers across all four work environment measures. British workers' relationship with their supervisors is the leading challenge for organizations in the U.K. Less than half of Britons who work for an employer say their supervisor is more like a partner than a boss (42.1%), while the majority of American workers say the same (55.8%).

British workers are also less likely than American workers to say they get to use their strengths at work and that they are satisfied with their job.

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Gallup classifies those who answer yes to all four items in the Work Environment Index as having a good work environment. In total, 35% of British workers have a good work environment, compared with 47% of American workers.

Gallup research has documented a strong relationship between employees' perceptions of their workplaces and important business outcomes, including customer engagement, turnover, absenteeism, and productivity. So, the U.K.'s less optimal workplaces limit the potential of businesses and, in turn, the nation's economy.

The U.K. has long lagged behind the U.S. in productivity. American workers outpace those in the U.K., producing $56.80 worth of goods and services per hour worked compared with British workers' $45.80 in 2009, according to the latest figures available from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Britons in Good Workplaces Rate Lives Better and Are Happier

The U.K.'s subpar workplaces are also bad for Britons' well-being. Britons who give a positive response to all four Work Environment Index items -- meaning they have a good workplace -- rate their lives better. About half of British workers in subpar work environments evaluate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving," versus 62.7% of those in good work environments.

British workers in subpar workplaces also report more daily worry, anger, stress, and sadness. Those in good work environments, on the other hand, have more daily happiness, enjoyment, and laughter.



U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is making national well-being a high priority in the country. He has empowered the country's Office for National Statistics to start taking its own measurements of "national well-being" and in March launched a new Department for Business Innovation & Skills task force to improve well-being in workplaces.

Cameron understands these two initiatives are interconnected. "This taskforce has my full support because I know that it will work to bring together two of my government's top priorities -- delivering sustainable growth across the U.K., and coming up with new approaches to help people improve their well-being," Cameron said at the launch. The inaugural Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index findings reveal that a focus on improving work environments will do just that.

More broadly, Cameron recognizes that leaders who rely solely on classical economic metrics to evaluate their country's progress are missing significant and valuable insights into their constituents' state of mind. The Gallup-Healthways well-being metrics provide empirical evidence about how individuals think and feel about the aspects of their lives that are most related to economic outcomes. These behavioral economic data are the key to helping governments and businesses predict and shape outcomes.

With the Gallup-Healthways well-being metrics, business and government leaders in the U.K. now have crucial insight into the state of mind of the country's workers. These attitudes are likely stifling productivity and may be contributing to a situation where millions of Britons say they would leave the country if given the opportunity. Leaders who create policies, programs, and incentives to develop better work environments will help to improve Britons' well-being and the nation's economic future overall.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the U.K., launched in January of this year, expands on the multiyear daily well-being tracking initiative in the U.S. By tracking Britons' well-being daily, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index will be able to monitor residents' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on an ongoing basis and uncover a wealth of hidden challenges and opportunities that the U.K. government and businesses can use to inform their decision making.

View all Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index questions and methodology.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. and U.K. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2-March 31, 2011, with a random sample of 3,933 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the United Kingdom, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1.8 percentage points for the total sample and ±2.3 points for the employed by an employer group.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 5 cell phone respondents and 29 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within the region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, education, region, adults in the household, and cell phone status. Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recently published population data from the Census Bureau for Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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