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Pay Rises And Work-Life Balance Still Bigger Concerns Than Redundancy


UK’s working population is refusing to let the recession change their boom-time attitude

LONDON – Most of the UK’s working population is refusing to let the recession change their boom-time attitude to their career. Instead of facing the reality of salary cuts and potential redundancy, workers are still demanding higher pay and seeking a better work-life balance – priorities much better suited to the good times.

Despite the constant flow of news headlines highlighting the toll that the recession is taking on UK employment, recent TNS research has uncovered a surprising contradiction in employees’ attitudes to work. Although on the surface, people are showing concerns about what the recession means for them, this is not yet translating into a change in priorities and subsequent behaviour in the workplace.

TNS’ study into UK workers’ priorities for 2009 reveals that employees are more bothered about reducing their stress levels at work and improving their work-life balance than hanging on to their jobs. Only 25% cite ‘avoiding redundancy’ as one of their priorities for 2009, compared to 29% focusing on reducing stress. Generally, Brits seem more concerned with easing their work load and increasing their pay than actively working to avoid the inevitable repercussions of a recession. The study also shows that only 15% expect a cut in salary this year.

Supporting this finding is the fact that only 9% of employees feel they need to make more of an effort to be noticed by senior management, indicating that people are still expecting the same promotions and pay rises that they got during the boom years, ignoring the obvious impact of the ailing economy.

But far from just wanting to improve the time they spend at work, more than a fifth (21%) of Brits also plan to proactively look for a better paid job this year, a surprising figure given the rising unemployment rate and country-wide threat of redundancies. The figures point to a workforce completely out of touch with reality that is expecting job offers and salary increases more appropriate to a growing economy than one in serious decline.

This is enforced by the fact that despite the undeniably gloomy job market, almost half (44%) of Brits have not changed their priorities at work from last year, with only 18% indicating that they have changed their work attitude in response to the recession. This figure was even higher among 55-64 year olds, with 63% saying that they have not changed their priorities for 2009 in the slightest – despite the fact that this is a high-risk group in terms of redundancies.

Gemma McIntosh, Head of TNS Stakeholder Management, comments: “Although we know that 2009 will be a difficult year for businesses across the UK, employees’ priorities do not seem to have shifted in line with the changing economy. We would expect to see workers staying put in their jobs and working toward job security. Instead, they are looking for better paid jobs or gunning for promotions – not behaviour one would expect to see during a recession.

“There seems to be an attitude of ‘it’ll never happen to me’ among the UK’s workforce, and many are continuing on as they always have been. But as more businesses are starting to cut back, it might be a good time for people to look at re-aligning their priorities. This will be a tough year, and although optimism should not be discouraged, we should adjust our expectations accordingly.”

TNS Omnibus online study of 743 British workers aged 16-64 January 2009.

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