According to a recent study published by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, the U.K. ranked among the lowest internationally in terms of the importance the public places on work.
Out of the 24 nations surveyed, U.K. residents were found to be the least likely to state that work is “important in their life, and among the least likely to say work should always come first, even if it means less leisure time.”
According to the analysis of the data, this trend isn’t new. Since 1981, there has been a considerable rise in the proportion of the U.K. population who believe that less importance should be placed on work.
Interestingly, the increase in that number might have been boosted by generational shifts in the workforce — with millennials increasingly expressing that they’d prefer a decrease in the importance of work. In contrast, older generations, such as the baby boomers and gen x, were found to be more inclined to prioritize work. These generational differences were not just found in the U.K., but in other countries as well.
While the study found that 73% of people in the U.K. agree with this sentiment, the findings speak volumes of broader global trends where workers are placing more importance on work-life balance. In fact, percentages of Russian and Canadian populations were found to share similar sentiments with U.K. residents, at 74% and 75%, respectively.
This shift could be attributed to various factors afflicting the global workforce — including economic and wage stagnation, which might lead younger generations to question the actual value of work.
However, as Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, points out, these attitudes don’t necessarily correlate with productivity.
“Attitudes to work are important to understand, but we need to avoid simple but wrong explanations that suggest they are responsible for relatively low productivity levels seen in the U.K., which will be much more about skills development, technological and other investment, and availability and use of national assets,” Duffy stated in the report. “Underlining this, there are some countries, like Germany, that have pretty similar views to the U.K. on the importance of work and balancing work with leisure, but much higher productivity.”
As the global workforce’s demographics get older, the sentiments on work-life balance will likely continue to persist. Companies and policymakers located in economies that are experiencing these shared attitudes might need to recognize this and adopt new policies to ensure a strong global workforce persists in the decades to come.