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Report: Happiness of UK workers at all-time low

By Matt Knight, for CNN
The UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey says unhappiness at work is at a record high.
The UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey says unhappiness at work is at a record high.
  • Majority of respondents believe it would be hard to find a new job, says report
  • Report: Happiness lowest among young people aged 18 to 24
  • Employers will have to work to improve motivation and commitment, report says
  • Stress
  • Business

London, England (CNN) -- Job satisfaction in the UK has dropped to an all-time low, according to a report by a leading business group.

A survey of more than 2,000 British workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which says it is Europe's largest HR professional body, reports "plummeting" levels of happiness in the workplace.

More than 60 percent of respondents believed it would be either difficult or very difficult to find a new job should they lose their current position. Almost a fifth thought it likely they would lose their jobs as a result of the recession.

The effects of the downturn have also been felt outside the workplace, with nearly a third of respondents reporting a fall in their living standards -- compared to only nine percent who said they had improved.

But figures among young workers (aged 18 to 24) were perhaps the most alarming. The survey reported job satisfaction levels have fallen nearly 90 percent since the CIPD last reported in summer 2009.

Claire McCartney, CIPD lead adviser, co-authored the CIPD quarterly report Employee Outlook. She told CNN: "We know that young people have been hard hit by the recession but what this survey is telling us is that those who are in work were really frustrated and job satisfaction had decreased quiet significantly. That for me is the key area."

McCartney says the data suggests young people are finding there are fewer opportunities to learn new skills and consequently are not being able to progress.

The quarterly report was released on the same day it was announced that the UK left recession in the fourth quarter of 2009, when the economy grew 0.1 percent.

The CIPD says the survey, conducted with polling organization YouGov, highlights the impact of the recession on the UK.

"What's come through from a number of the surveys is a lack of trust in senior leaders -- employees not being able to discuss changes and feed in their view," McCartney said.

While this isn't too much of a surprise, employers she says would be wise to consider carefully how they engage employees now to stop losing talent further down the line.

"When things do start to pick up people will leave if they don't feel they trust their leaders or that they are being consulted."

Philip Dewe, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the UK's Birkbeck College, University of London said that happiness in the workplace is always a hard thing to get right.

"Job satisfaction is a fairly complicated issue at the best of times," Dewe told CNN, "but we do know what makes people happy at work is being engaged in what they do and getting some sort of satisfaction from it."

Dewe said employers should be focusing on the needs of the individual and how those needs can be matched along with recognizing the need for a work/life balance.

"Employers can also look at how individuals learn and develop in organizations and put in strategies which allow them to take place," he said.

For employees, measuring job satisfaction, at least in theory, is relatively straightforward, Dewe said.

"It's just a question of what people in my trade call the psychological contract -- that is having a belief that you are being treated fairly and openly and that your wants and needs and your employers wants and needs are in alignment," he added.