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A report by Hilary Osbourne in today’s Guardian reveals that British workers are feeling less secure and more pressured at work than at any time in the past 20 years, with pay cuts and diminished control over their jobs among the biggest concerns.

The Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills six-yearly survey into employee wellbeing interviewed more than 3,000 workers aged between 20 and 60 in 2012. For the first time since 1997, public sector workers were more concerned about losing their jobs than those in the private sector. The research showed that job stress has gone up and job-related wellbeing has gone down since 2006. People reported working harder, with both the speed of work and pressures of working to tight deadlines rising to record highs.

Interestingly however, the researchers said that employees were more content and less anxious about job or status loss "where employers adopted policies that gave employees a degree of involvement in decision-making at work".

Prof Alan Felstead of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: "The slowness with which employers in Britain are enhancing employee participation is becoming an issue of considerable concern."

The Chartered Institute of Personal and Development said the survey made worrying reading. Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, said ,"What’s good for people is good for business, and if we can embrace that truth to build cultures in which people want to work and are unified by a common purpose, we can not only prevent catastrophes, we can truly build more sustainable economic growth."

Elsewhere in the news this month, paragon of employee participation John Lewis announced their plan to offer it’s staff the chance to study for ‘degrees’ under a work based scheme dubbed “University of John Lewis”. The staff owned retailer plans to offer senior managers a level 6 vocational equivalent to an honours degree by the end of the year. Last year 1,330 John Lewis partners gained a retail diploma, with a third picking up a level 3 qualification, which is at a standard equivalent to A -Levels.

John Lewis personnel director, Laura Whyte, said “Our partners give us the competitive edge, and if we want them to stay with us for the long term, we need to make sure that they have the right skills to meet the challenges we face in an evolving retail environment.”

Unlike many of it’s rivals, Waitrose, the upmarket supermarket arm of the John Lewis Group, has benefitted from their clean bill of health during the recent horsemeat scandal, reporting an 11% increase in sales in the last three months. The retailer reports that customers trusted the stores over it’s competitors and that it had been winning shoppers from Tescos – one of the worst – affected grocers.

According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel retail data, Waitrose market share grew to 4.9% in April, compared with 4.5% last year, gaining customers faster than Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons combined.

As an aside, leading London Estate Agents Foxtons have reported that the announcement of a new Waitrose store opening actually increases property prices in the location!

 In an economic environment where most experts agree that employee wellbeing has been on the decline since 2006, it is good to see an organisation that is not only bucking the trend, but seems to be growing as a result of it’s investment in, and commitment to it’s people.

One can only speculate as to whether or not the way that this organisation looks after their people had any bearing on the fact that they were one of the very few that kept clear of the recent horsemeat scandal. All I know is that on balance, the more engaged, secure,valued and consulted we feel as employees, the more likely we are to speak up when we see something in the workplace that is clearly wrong.

“I think we’re a business that has got a heart and soul, which we haven’t lost through the economic downturn, and we want to help our customers while being true to our principles.”

Mark Price, Managing Director, Waitrose UK Limited

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