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UK Productivity improving but workplace tensions are rife


Britain’s managers believe their organisations have become more productive after introducing new working practices and successfully implementing large-scale changes, according to an annual survey by Roffey Park into the state of the workplace. However, this year's "Management Agenda" also uncovered an undercurrent of tension made apparent by escalating workloads, increases in workplace conflict, bullying and job insecurity.

65% of managers claimed that change has improved organisational performance (up from 47% in 2002). Often these changes have involved new working arrangements being introduced, such as the use of ‘virtual’ teams, flexible working, outsourcing, home-working and ‘hot-desking’.

60% of managers believe office politics is increasely prevalent in their organisation and 79% claim that conflict in the workplace has increased. 18% have personally experienced harassment or bullying at work, predominantly verbal hounding although 9% referred to physical attacks. 12% claim that sexual harassment occurs in their work environment. Asked who are the main perpetrators of harassment, the respondents pointed to senior managers (63%), their boss (29%), their colleagues (20%) and customers (18%).

33% of managers feel less secure in their jobs than they did last year. 83% work consistently longer than their contracted week and 63% report that their workload has increased over the last year. 70% claim to suffer from work-related stress, caused by a lack of time (58%) increasing workloads (54%) a lack of organisational support (47%) and a lack of control over their workload (38%).

47% of managers are looking for greater meaning in their lives. 53% admit to having experienced tensions between the spiritual side of their values and their daily work. Surprisingly, 44% would value the chance to discuss spirituality or ‘meaning’ in the workplace with their colleagues.

88% of managers want their organisations to act socially and environmentally responsibly, for example through community work, recycling, respecting diversity, fundraising activities and charitable giving. 37% of organisations now have a corporate social responsibility statement in place, though many respondents see this as mere window-dressing.

Managers believe that the key priorities for organisations in the future will be strategic alliances, the need to stick to the core business and e-business. The key challenges for the future will be managing change, recruiting and retaining talent, dealing with increased competition and managing in an unstable economic climate.

When asked about the HR function in their organisation, only 25% of managers said that HR is proactive and adds value to the business. 62% class it as reactive; 41% believe that HR professionals lack credibility and 40% say HR has little influence within their organisation.

47% of managers admit that they are considering a move to a different organisation. They want an opportunity to broaden their skills (53%), more challenging work (44%), greater appreciation (43%), more money (41%) and a better match between their own values and those of their organisation (37%).

To help alleviate some of the pressures at work, managers want more frequent reviews of workloads, improved internal communications and an increased focus on coaching.

The survey also reveals the problems of ‘working across boundaries’. It finds that managers encounter difficulties working across different time zones (71%), adapting to cultural differences (57%), maintaining regular contact with international team members (51%) and coping with the demands of travel (49%).


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