A new report has revealed that only 10% of British workers are engaged in their jobs. 

Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report highlights how much low worker engagement is costing the UK: a whopping £257 billion annually; approximately the same amount it costs to run the NHS for a year. 

The annual report, which represents the collective voice of the global employee, indicates that nine out of ten employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged — a startling statistic which sets the UK behind the European average of 13% engaged employees. 

Globally, the situation isn’t much better. Employee engagement held steady at 23% in 2023 after years of gradual improvement. This means that the majority of the world’s workforce continues to struggle, with significant repercussions for organisational productivity and overall economic health.

Nine out of ten employees in the UK are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

As Jeremie Brecheisen, Managing Partner for Gallup EMEA, explains; the potential impact of even modest improvements in engagement show how important it is for both business and government to take action.

Jeremie Brecheisen, Managing Partner, Gallup EMEA: “It’s exciting to think how 40-50% of workers being engaged could change the world.”

“By increasing the UK’s engagement by even a few percentage points, employees and employers could experience major improvements to their bottom line, and in turn, help support our ailing public service. In a general election year, how to improve our workplace performance should be a key consideration for an incoming cabinet.”

Emotional wellbeing: A comparative downturn

The Gallup report paints a sobering picture of the emotional wellbeing of UK workers. With 40% of employees reporting stress the day before, compared to 37% of European workers, the toll of growing workplace burnout is evident. Additionally, 20% of UK workers experienced anger and 27% felt sadness the previous day, surpassing the European figures of 15% and 17%, respectively.

Employee stress has been rising for over a decade, with many influencing factors, including the pandemic (which sparked a sharp rise in work stress in 2020). Gallup’s research, however, indicates the significant role that managers play in the stress workers feel on the job, which influences their daily stress overall.

According to Gallup’s findings, our relationship with our manager has a 70% influence on how we feel at work, and yet managers spend only 7% of their time managing people. Poor management leads to disengaged employees, which in turn impacts economies all around the world.

Based on the results of the German Index Report, there’s a clear ‘disconnect’ between managers and employees’ views on performance in this area. 

“97% of employers think they’re doing a really good job of managing their people, while 69% of employees say they’re experiencing bad managers,” says Pa Sinyan, Managing Partner at EMEA Gallup. Clearly, something isn’t stacking up.

Job market sentiment and active disengagement

Gallup’s report also revealed that less than half (48%) of UK workers feel optimistic about the job market, and that 31% of UK employees are actively seeking new job opportunities, aligning closely with the 32% of their European peers. 

The findings highlight a concerning trend: actively disengaged employees, those who oppose their employer’s goals, constitute 15% of the global workforce. Poor job market perceptions are closely linked to higher levels of active disengagement. Conversely, countries with favourable job market conditions see lower rates of disengagement.

The path forward

The economic and emotional costs of low worker engagement are too significant to ignore, and as the UK approaches a pivotal election year, improving workplace engagement and performance should be high on the agenda for any incoming government.

Investing in strategies that boost employee engagement could unlock substantial economic benefits and enhance the wellbeing of the workforce. Clearly, fostering a more engaged and emotionally healthy workforce is not just beneficial—it’s imperative for the future prosperity of the UK.

“Right now, in our Global State of the Workplace report, we see that only a little over 20% of the world is engaged with the work they do. We think that should be double — and that will take time, but it’s exciting to think about how 40 to 50% of workers being engaged could change the world,” says Jeremie Brecheisen. 

“We also believe that a billion people need to discover their strengths and currently only around 30 million people have, so there’s so much more work to do.”

According to Gallup, the key to creating a thriving workplace is to identify individual strengths, and plan how each employee can be helped to progress.

Anna Sawyer, Principal Partner at Gallup.

“By 2025, a quarter of our workplace will be Gen Z,” explains Anna Sawyer, Principal Partner at Gallup, “and they have zero tolerance for poor management.

“[Gen Z] are looking for that really strong connection to mission and purpose; they want to go to work and feel like they’re doing something that matters.”

Key strategies for businesses: Identifying individual strengths 

Strengths assessments
Assessment tools such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help identify employees’ innate talents and preferences. Additionally, businesses can encourage employees to self-assess and reflect on their strengths and areas of interest through structured surveys or reflective exercises.

Regular feedback and performance reviews
Providing regular, constructive feedback that highlights strengths observed in projects, while also using 360-degree feedback mechanisms to gather input from others, can help to offer a well-rounded view of an employee’s strengths.

One-on-one meetings
Regular one-on-one meetings to discuss career aspirations and personalised development plans that leverage an individual’s strengths allows for open and honest conversations where employees feel comfortable discussing their career goals.

Recognition and reward programs
By recognising employees for their strengths and contributions — and publicly celebrating and rewarding successes that stem from them  — individuals can feel motivated and more deeply invested in the goals of the business.

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The world of work post-pandemic is changing, with businesses facing challenges such as low employee engagement, quiet quitting, and career uncertainty. Learn how Gallup works with its clients to identify the specific problems they face and offer insight-led solutions to create thriving, future-proof workplaces.

For more insights and thought-leadership interviews on the future of work and developing an engaged workforce, explore our newly-launched programme, The Future of Work: People, Culture, Tech.