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UK workers more stressed, less confident, and less optimistic after Brexit

26th Jun 18 9:23 am

What are our concerns?

In 2016, when Brexit came into fruition, it was obvious its implications would prove to spread across countless areas. Two years later, those implications are as strong as ever, and one of the most notable areas that have been affected is workplaces.

 Three years ago, at the brink of Brexit, the changing circumstances posed severe HR implications. Many felt insecure in their jobs, whereas others felt they were not being told the extent of the changes that were going to affect them.

An extensive three-year study, as part of The Workforce View in Europe, conducted by ADP shows UK employees heading towards a critical point with three main measures of employee wellbeing – stress, skills confidence, and optimism – going downhill since 2015. Although the exact cause of the decline cannot be pointed up, most evidence suggests Brexit, in addition to new technologies in the workplace, as the one of the main cause.

ADP surveys as part of The Workforce View in Europe which takes into account 1,300 to 1,500 employees every year and tracks their changing perspectives and attitudes on their work and its environment. The survey results for this year indicated that around 75 percent of respondents felt very or moderately optimistic about their future at work, which is a 6 percent drop from 81 percent in 2015. This decline in optimism is even more evident amongst employees in Generation Z, where the level of optimism has fallen from 91 percent to 83 percent since 2015. This can largely be attributed towards their resistance to Brexit.

In addition to these growing concerns, respondents also feel less confident about their skills today, as compared to in 2015. This lack of confidence can also be attributed to the introduction of new technologies in the workplace; around 80 percent of respondents feel that they have necessary skills and training to be successful in their careers, a figure which is down 8 percent since 2015. Moreover, the proportion of workers who feel they do not feel confident in their abilities has doubled from 2 percent to 5 percent during the same period. This particular phenomenon mostly affects those between the ages of 35-44 with their confidence falling by 11 percent since 2015.

All changing factors contribute to a rise in stress levels, which has risen from 11 percent to 20 percent over the three-year period. Businesses in the United Kingdom, in particular, are going through substantial changes due to technological advancements, as well as crucial changes in the political landscape. Regardless of the fact that employees, today, are equipped with the skills to deal with changing environments, there is no denying that many are facing difficulty to keep up. Uncertainty towards the future is leading to a rise in stress levels, waning optimism, and a lack of confidence in themselves.

According to Jeff Phipps from the ADP, “UK businesses are going through a period of enormous change. Alongside the continued drive for digital transformation and the introduction of new technologies, there have been significant changes in the political landscape, such as Brexit. Change management has become the new normal for employers, yet employees are still struggling to keep up. Unsure of what the future holds, their optimism is waning, they’re unsure of their skills, and their stress levels are reaching boiling point.

“Employers have a vital role to play in reversing this worrying trend. The winners will constantly evaluate their relationship with their workforce, using transparency to build trust. They will provide development and support to build a committed workforce, able to adapt to the pace of change and prosper not just in a financial sense but also by working for organizations who demonstrate a commitment to their shared values.”

The need for better management

In the wake of these issues, it is important as ever for companies to realize the importance of employee engagement and to keep morale at the workplace at a high despite the uncertainty created by Brexit. Maintaining a successful company is more difficult than it’s ever been and leaders need to reevaluate their approach towards it.

Keeping this into account, there are a few steps employers can take to ensure employees stay motivated and optimistic through the current political landscape. There needs to be transparency in the impact Brexit has on a particular work environment, and unaddressed issues only lead to increased stress and anxiety. With any potential change due to Brexit, teams need to hold what it means for them. EU workers, in particular, could possibly feel even more vulnerable which is why additional measures, such as information on residence and registration, need to be provided. Adding to this, in circumstances where information is being shared, it needs to be shared in a way that is simple for employees to understand, to avoid employee disengagement.

Additionally, managers need to be fully equipped to address any and all kinds of concerns. It is crucial for management, and especially the HR department, to stay on track with any changes so they can address questions and concerns properly. There needs to be a plan for the business to incorporate the changes. For instance, if a company is involved with export overseas and will no longer be doing so once Britain leaves the EU, employees are at the risk of losing their jobs. In a case such as this, employees need to be informed of a plan that could help counter this and cover any losses, thus reassuring them that there is an alternative available.

Keeping everything in mind, it is important to realize everything starts at the top. Hence, there is a need for stronger CEOs who create working practices where open communication channels and the need for lifting each other up exist. For every business affected by Brexit, regardless of whether its directly or indirectly, it is certain this tumultuous time will only lead to more changes and employee engagement is as important as customer experience. Thus, the aim should build a strong entity in times of uncertainty and ensure employees remain optimistic about the future, despite the political climate.

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