Marek Zemanik, Senior Public Policy Adviser – CIPD Scotland, talks about their ‘Working Lives Scotland’ report which is a dedicated analysis of job quality and its impact on working lives in Scotland and is written around the five Fair Work dimensions.
At the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, it is our purpose is to champion better work and working lives. Job quality is at the heart of what we do – our qualifications, our practitioner guidance, our research and policy work. We were therefore delighted to join the Fair Work Convention in a strategic partnership last year, working together to enhance our collective understanding of fair work, spread awareness and drive change across Scotland’s workplaces.
One of the areas where the CIPD can uniquely contribute is through our job quality research. The 23 June 2022 saw the publication of our third Working Lives Scotland report, offering a thorough look at Scottish employees’ experiences of fair work. The report explores all five dimensions of fair work and offers insight into a broad range of job quality indicators. Now in its third year, it allows us to track how aspects of fair work have changed during the pandemic.
Change or continuity?
While most job quality aspects stayed relatively constant last year, there have been some signs change. Most obviously, the much higher rates of home and hybrid working, but also drops in life satisfaction, a lower likelihood to quit jobs or more positive feelings of meaningfulness of work, driven primarily by key workers. This year’s survey provides some indication as to how much of this was simply a temporary pandemic effect.
Our report shows that in many cases we do indeed see a return to our findings from 2020 – there are improvements in life satisfaction and also an increased likelihood to quit jobs in the future. Even last year’s positive findings on meaningfulness of work have reverted to pre-pandemic levels. We do, however, continue to see improvements in voice scores, which, if sustained, would be a welcome consequence of the additional focus on communication during the pandemic. And, of course, changes to the way we work are still with us.
Overall, we see ways of working settling down and match employee preferences. 15% of employees work fully from home, a significant drop from the 38% in last year’s survey. In direct contrast, 39% are working hybrid, compared with 16% last year. For most employees their current pattern of work matches their future preference too. However, 31% of employees are in jobs that cannot be done from home and another 14% do not want to work from home at all in the future. This again highlights the need to look at other forms of flexibility for employees, ensuring that the benefits of flexibility are available to everyone and not only those who can and/or want to work from home.
Of course, working from home all or some of the time can be linked to differences in how employees experience of fair work. Full-time homeworkers report benefits around job autonomy, job complexity or work–life balance. On the other hand, they report poorer relationships with colleagues, which supports some of the concerns about the drop in social interactions.
On the other hand, hybrid workers tend to do better across many fair work dimensions, but they struggle the most with work–life balance. Some of this will be linked to commuting time, which has significant impact on the ability to balance work and personal commitments. All of these issues need to be kept in mind in debates about the future of the workplace.
The ‘great rethink’?
As we started emerging from the pandemic, an increasing number of employers began reporting labour and skills shortages. This was coupled with a popular narrative of a ‘great resignation’ or a ‘great rethink’, which purportedly saw employees re-evaluate their jobs and be more inclined to look for different employment. Our survey explores this briefly.
First of all, we do not find evidence of increased staff turnover. 13% of respondents have been in their current job for under a year, in line with last year’s 14% and the 15% recorded in 2020.
We also ask those who moved jobs to select from a list of reasons for their job change. A third (33%) said it was because they were unhappy with the leadership of senior management, to get better pay/benefits (30%), increase job satisfaction (30%) and better work–life balance (21%). Most interestingly, only 4% said that it was because the pandemic prompted them to change their career path.
Of course, just because someone has not changed jobs in the last year does not mean that they are not re-evaluating their priorities. Our survey also asked how likely employees are to voluntarily quit in the next 12 months – 20% said it was likely and 60% unlikely. While this is a jump from 12% in 2021, it is simply a return to the pre-pandemic level, where 19% said they were likely to quit at the beginning of 2020.
Perhaps most encouragingly, we have seen a further uptick in some of the voice indicators we ask about. In particular, we have seen improvements in the responses received from employees working for SMEs. Combined with the sustained improvements in large organisations, we recorded the best voice scores for the private sector yet. This could be a reflection of the additional effort to communicate during the pandemic, but it needs to be sustained.
That being said, we still find significant gaps in direct and indirect voice channels, with nearly a fifth of employees reporting no voice channel at work at all, including team meetings or one-to-one meetings with managers.
Working Lives Scotland 2022 shows both continuity and change in job quality. Significant gaps in fair work that we have seen in our first two surveys remain, in particular between different occupations. Higher rates of home and hybrid working look like they are here to stay, with additional challenges for people managers to navigate. Improvements in employee voice are welcome, but sustaining them – and improving further – will take even more effort. We look forward to continue working with the Fair Work Convention on making sure that better work and working lives become a reality for all of us in Scotland.
Marek Zemanik Senior Public Policy Adviser – CIPD Scotland