The Meaning of Work Report

The Meaning of Work is a study by global job site Indeed exploring what work means to people in the UK in 2019

Read the full report below

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The Meaning of Work addresses some of the big questions about how we might work in the near future and challenging some of the myths about what we really want from the work we do.

More people are in work than ever before, while unemployment is at the lowest level since the 1970s. But, with uncertainty surrounding our economy, we wanted to take a litmus test of the views of the UK workforce. Are people happy with their salary? Are they fulfilled in their work? Are widely-debated new forms of work a reality for them?

The Meaning of Work brings together new data from the following sources to provide an accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive view of employee attitudes, which are shaping the modern workplace:

  1. Survey of a representative sample of over 2,000 UK workers conducted by YouGov

  2. New insights from the last five years of activity on the Indeed platform (which has over 40 million monthly visits in the UK)

  3. Latest labour market information from the Office of National Statistics


Three quarters (74%) of the UK workforce believe they could do their job to the same standard in four days as they do in five. Support for a four-day working week rises to 4 in 5 (79%) among millennials (23-38 year olds).


UK workers who prioritise work/life balance would be happy earning £6,000 less annually than those who are not as concerned with work/life balance.


56% would like to see every worker’s full pay made transparent and available to all, with just 33% opposing pay transparency. This represents a marked shift in favour of pay transparency from previous studies, partly driven by millennials who are the age group most enthusiastic about the idea (59%).


57% of those asked believed their salary was the most important factor in their work, followed by work/life balance (55%). Work/life balance was considered more important than job security (45%) colleagues (40%) length and convenience of the commute (34%), financial benefits such as a pension (20%) and the culture of the organisation in which people work (12%).

More than half of full-time workers consider pay to be more important than purpose at work or even getting a promotion

Our Economist’s Take

The Meaning of Work report comes at a pivotal moment for the UK labour market: more people of working age have a job than ever before; unemployment is at its lowest level since the mid-1970s; and more women and other under-represented groups are in the workforce.

But it’s not all blue skies. Pay in real terms is creeping up but remains below the pre-crisis peak; UK full-time workers clock up more hours in a week than any of their European Union counterparts; and there is near-term uncertainty of an economic shock from the UK’s departure from the EU.

It’s against this backdrop that we asked British workers what they wanted from work.

The results tell us that pay matters - a lot. More than half of full-time workers consider pay to be more important than purpose at work or even getting a promotion.

Moreover, despite average weekly earnings currently growing at close to their highest rate since the financial crisis of 2008, nearly a third of UK employees are dissatisfied with their current level of pay.

But pay is not everything. The results show that work/life balance is hot on the heels of salary when it comes to workers’ priorities and it’s an important factor for workers of all ages. This, combined with the result that most people back pay transparency, and the majority view that a four-day working week is feasible, supports the view that the demands of the workforce are evolving.

The survey sends a strong signal to employers struggling to attract and retain employees in today’s competitive labour market, as well as to policymakers looking to ensure that Britain’s jobs boom satisfies the expectations of today’s workforce. Employers who want to attract and retain the best staff will need to take an imaginative and flexible approach to how they organise their people.



Read more about our findings:
work / life balance and flexibility, pay, purpose, and progression.