New global research from Workhuman reveals UK workers feel least appreciated, with lack of work recognition linked to increased employee stress


Showing more appreciation is the one thing workers wish their managers did more often.

Workhuman®, the leading provider of human applications, has released the findings of the 2019 International Employee Survey Report. Published by the Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute (WARI), the research reveals the perspectives and attitudes of more than 3,500 employees in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the US, uncovering valuable insights into how recognition and gratitude improve employee engagement, performance and retention.

This latest WARI report confirms the value of expressing gratitude in the workplace, revealing that the more appreciation and thanks an employee receives, the less stressed they are likely to feel.

More gratitude means lower stress levels

Respondents were asked to assess both their stress level and gratitude level at work on a sliding scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being least stressed or grateful and 100 being most stressed or grateful.

Notably, of the countries surveyed, the UK had the lowest levels of gratitude, with a score of 53 out of 100, compared to 54 in Ireland and 58 in Canada and the USA. Despite this difference – whether attributable to the famed British “reserve” or not – for all regions, more recent, frequent recognition is associated with higher gratitude levels and lower stress levels.

For UK respondents, the highest stress levels are reported by those who either have never been recognised at work, or who were recognised more than two years ago.

Informal check-ins are key to trust and engagement

The number of companies conducting annual or six-monthly reviews has fallen for the fourth year in a row of this survey – down from 82% in 2016 to 54% in 2019. This is a positive development for many employees, as more than half of those surveyed (53%) don’t feel that these formal reviews improve performance. Nevertheless, UK workers who check in, formally or informally, with their manager more frequently report higher levels of trust, respect, and engagement.

85% of UK employees who check in with their managers at least once a week report that they respect their manager, compared to only 33% of those who never do. Similarly, 70% of employees who meet up with their managers once a week or more trust their manager to help them succeed in their careers, versus just 23% of those who don’t meet up with their managers at all. Likewise, the UK workers who report the highest levels of engagement at work (80%) are those who check in with their managers at least weekly.

Appreciation tops the wish list

When asked to choose the one thing they wish their manager did more of out of several options, respondents chose “show more appreciation” as their top answer, ahead of options including help with career development, give more independence, meet more frequently, or provide more learning and development.

“Appreciation and recognition go a long way to building connections in the workplace that improve employee satisfaction, performance, and retention. The results of this study show a clear and consistent link between increased gratitude and less stress, as well as greater trust and respect. Prioritising gratitude in the workplace creates a culture that’s not only good for business, but for the humans who power them,” explained Lynette Silva, principal consultant, Workhuman.

Survey methodology:

The 2019 survey was composed of 3,573 randomly selected fully employed persons in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland (age 18 or older). The respondent sampling of the survey was conducted by independent market research firm Dynata. The 2019 International Employee Survey Report is the 11th edition of the survey since its launch in 2011.