Employment

Millions of Brits think their jobs are 'meaningless.' Could a four-day working work week fix that?

An estimated 11 million British workers believe their jobs are 'meaningless' new analysis suggests – prompting renewed calls for a four day work week

A third of people feel that their jobs are meaningless. Credit: canva

Feel like your job is pointless? You’re not alone.

An estimated 11 million British workers believe their jobs are “meaningless,” new analysis suggests – prompting renewed calls for a four-day working week.

According to a YouGov poll of 5,889 people, a third (33%) of workers don’t think that their job makes a meaningful contribution to the world.  

People who work in retail and financial services are the most disenchanted, with a staggering 53% struggling to see the point of their work.” Those working in ‘hospitality and leisure’ come a close second, with 50% feeling that their job is meaningless.

The appetite for change is clear, said Will Stronge, director of research at think tank Autonomy.

“Our analysis shows that workers are dissatisfied with their work, and they’re calling for a change,” he said.

“Moving to a four-day week could give workers the chance to find fulfilment in other aspects of their lives while also providing benefits to employers in terms of productivity and better recruitment and retention.”

Why do so many Brits think their jobs are pointless?

When it comes to finding meaning at work, not all professions are created equal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who work in ‘medical and health services’ are the most likely to feel that their job makes a meaningful contribution to the world. 80% of health professionals think so, as do 77% of those who work in education.

A mere 13% and 16% in these industries respectively feel that their jobs are meaningless.

Medical and education workers are also the most likely to be proud of their jobs, with two-thirds feeling proud.   

At the other end of the scale, only around a third (33-37%) of people in retail and financial services feel their jobs are making a meaningful difference to the world.

Retail workers are also the most likely to be embarrassed by their occupation, at 11%, along with hospitality and leisure workers at 9%.

All of this has implications for turnover: among those who consider their jobs meaningless, 36% say they are likely to change jobs in the next year

Could a four-day working week fix employment ennui?

It doesn’t have to be this way, says Aliyah Davies, campaigner at the 4 Day Week Campaign. A four-day week would help people suffering from employment ennui.

“The 9-5, five-day working week is outdated, exhausting and is creating a real crisis in our connection with work,” she said.

“Four-day week trials have shown that a shorter working week can boost job satisfaction as well as productivity. It truly is a win-win for workers and employers.”

In February, new research showed that at least 54 of the 61 companies that took part in a six-month pilot in the UK in 2022 have maintained the four-day week a year and a half later with reported increases in job satisfaction.

Earlier this year, the 4 Day Week campaign said that most British workers will be working four days per week by the end of the decade. They have launched a short one month long trial this summer to try and encourage more companies to sign on.

The new initiative, 4UGUST, will see companies taking part giving their staff a four-day week, while keeping salaries the same, for the whole month of August this summer.

“Low commitment trials like 4UGUST are a great way for employers to see how a four-day week might work for them,” said Stronge.

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