Gallup’s global snapshot of worker sentiment shows wellness deficit

New report sheds light on the global deterioration of mental health, the importance of labour market protections, and the role of the manager in supporting employee wellbeing

Feeling lonely, stressed and disengaged? These are common emotions in the world of work today, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2024 Report. This study highlights three focus areas: employee mental health and wellbeing; how labour market dynamics and policies influence workers both in their jobs and in their day-to-day life; and how manager-related factors drive individual and organisational actions.

A loneliness epidemic?

Considerations around employee mental health are part of a highly nuanced topic, as not all mental health factors relate to work, but work does play a significant role nonetheless. Research from Gallup has shown that the global deterioration of mental health is concerning: one in five employees reported experiencing feeling loneliness the previous day. The rate of reported loneliness is even higher for those under 35, and remote workers report feeling much higher degrees of loneliness than those with hybrid working patterns.

The good news is that work can play a positive role in fighting loneliness. The research shows that working people are significantly less lonely than those who are unemployed – this is not limited to just one age range or gender, but rather cuts across demographic groups.

The global snapshot shows that employee wellbeing declined in 2023 from 35 per cent to 34 per cent. The most recent data proves that work is a huge factor in daily emotions, and if an employee does not like or find meaning in their job, then their levels of anger, stress and worry increase. However, tying into loneliness, the research finds that on many aspects of wellbeing, it is worse to be disengaged in your job than to not have a job at all.

The state of the global job market

A look at the job market shows that over half of workers globally say that now is a good time to find a job, and that they themselves are either actively or passively seeking a new role. In many countries, it is a particularly good time to be looking for work – in Germany, for example, record levels of people are saying that they have been approached by head-hunters or recruiters.

But what’s the picture when it comes to worker engagement within jobs? A trend that stood out to Gallup was the inverse relationship between one’s perception of the job market, combined with the level of active disengagement by country. In countries where the job market is viewed favourably, active disengagement is at a very low rate. This is because when the job market is good, those who are frustrated within their jobs do not stay in their workplace – they search for a new job instead.

‘In countries where the job market is viewed favourably, active disengagement is at a very low rate…’

Gallup’s report also sheds some light on important implications for legal protections in different countries and how this influences people’s lived experiences. Those who live in countries with maternity benefits, fair wages, social security, employee security, fair treatment and safety evaluate their lives more positively. But when connecting this back to the workplace experience, the research notes that it is how engaged we are, rather than labour rights, that is more predictive in terms of how we feel life is going and our hopes for the future.

Managing managers

The Gallup research dived into the role of the manager in driving worker wellbeing and organisational performance. It found that when managers are engaged, non-managers are likely to be more engaged too. Interestingly, this holds true globally. Managers are also more likely to be engaged and thriving in their lives than non-managers.

Commonly, they benefit from higher pay, higher social standing, they typically feel a greater connection to their organisation’s mission and purpose, and they feel their opinion will count at work a greater degree. In best-practice organisations, three-quarters of managers are engaged, along with seven in ten non-managers.

But the picture for managers isn’t all sunny: they experience higher levels of negative emotions than non-managers, and are more likely to be stressed, angry, sad and lonely than non-managers. A major reason for this is that initiatives that support employee wellbeing are often provided by managers rather than being directed towards them – organisations should be looking to recognise that managers need care and attention too.

Read the Gallup Work of Work in 2024 Report here.

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