Working age and business
What we do
Our focus is on wellbeing in the workplace, job quality, work through the life course, and continued learning.
Why is this important?
Very few things impact wellbeing as much as work, and whether we have a job or not is the third biggest factor associated with our wellbeing, after our mental and physical health and our personal relationships. We know that:
- Being out of work damages wellbeing for everyone, regardless of age, gender, location, ethnicity, level of education, the effect is as big as bereavement.
- We do not adapt to unemployment and the effects can worsen with time.
- Beyond employment, the quality of our job matters for our wellbeing. Life satisfaction peaks at 23 and 68 and is at its lowest during working life.
- A supportive and effective workplace appears to be key for employee wellbeing.
Projects and resources
- Covid-19 and employment
- Business Leaders Council
- Employee wellbeing snapshot survey
- Guidance for better workplace wellbeing
- Evidence email series – work and Covid-19
- Workplace wellbeing questionnaire
- job quality
- unemployment and (re)employment
- transitions from education to work
- learning and training
- gender and employment
- progression and job security
- finding and keeping work
- belonging at work and organisational resilience
- team working
- Adult learning and life satisfaction
- Adult learning
What does a ‘good job’ look like?
- Control over our job
- Clarity of what is expected of us
- Variety in what we do
- Positive relationships with managers, co-workers and customers
- Belief that our workplace and pay are fair
- A sense of personal purpose and of our wider value to others
- Opportunities to use and develop our skills
- A safe and pleasant working environment
- Supportive supervision
- A sense of job security and clear career prospects
- Good work/life balance
A supportive and effective workplace appears to be key for employee wellbeing. For example, one review found that training leaders to be effective and supportive can enhance the wellbeing of both leaders and employees. Additionally, training staff in the skills they need to make their own jobs better may have positive effects on wellbeing.
Some characteristics can increase the negative effects of unemployment:
- being unemployed for over a year
- being a man (although men’s wellbeing increases more once reemployed)
- being a young person.
Unemployment is also associated with inequality in life satisfaction, though the effect is less consistent.
When it comes to gender and unemployment, on average, losing a job affects the wellbeing of men more than women. Analysis also finds that women who hold ‘traditional values’ about women’s roles are less likely to experience negative wellbeing impacts if they lose a job. On the other hand, those with ‘egalitarian’, or modern, values do suffer in wellbeing terms. Both these findings make intuitive sense. Those who do not see work as key to their identity and purpose suffer less wellbeing damage when losing their job than others.
Progression at work
Promotions can impact our mental health, although the evidence is low quality: there is mixed evidence of the immediate impact, and some evidence to suggest that long-term there can be a negative impact on mental health.
Having a bridging job can help to protect wellbeing during the transition to retirement. Also, the job type and our personal circumstances can impact how retirement affects our wellbeing. If we see our jobs as ‘prestigious, successful careers’, it can be hard to make adjustments to our new situation.