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We are pleased to share the second in a three-part series from the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), charting the findings of the organisation’s recent into how people are feeling at work. This part explores the working environment.

The survey respondents were given a series of statements and asked which ones applied to them. The following results give the percentage of respondents who said the statements did apply to them.


  • 62% – I have a degree of freedom and control in my role, including the ability to make decisions about what I do, where and when I do it, and at what pace
  • 51% – I am generally able to make choices that work best for me
  • 45% – Even if I am given clear direction and deadlines by my supervisor or line manager, I am able to independently make changes to the content and structure if I feel it is necessary
  • 63% – I feel that I have enough control and ownership over my work to ensure that I can always do it safely
  • 52% – I am able to control or request adjustments for some of the conditions in the work environment if required (i.e. light, temperature, ventilation) and know that any suggestions or concerns I have in this regard will be handled quickly and in good faith
  • 51% – The environment in which I work, and the facilities I have been provided with have been designed and are changed with workers’ comfort and interests in mind
  • 55% – I am protected from any potentially hazardous materials by my employer

Managers and leaders

  • 73% – Employees feel that we, as their employers, provide a stable working environment in which organisational changes are planned and communicated


Our Thought Leadership Manager Dr Chris Davis gives his view on the results

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, workers globally have increasingly demanded greater flexibility, control, and autonomy at work. And while certain factors may limit the degree to which workers are able, for example, to work remotely or smartly, it is without question that the pandemic accelerated the general feeling among workers that the terms of their employment should suit them as well as their employers.

Of course, flexibility, control, and autonomy don’t only refer to workers having the freedom to work from home or manage their time. They also refer to the extent to which workers feel that they generally have choice, ownership, and discretion when at work. This feeling might come to the fore by seemingly trivial means – in the ability to adjust workstations, having choice when it comes to taking breaks, or having the freedom to prioritise work independently.

It is disappointing, therefore, to find that large numbers of respondents in our survey do not identify with these feelings. As with the last reflection, what workers feel might not tally with the perception of others within an organisation, but worker feelings are significant and shouldn’t be ignored.

Fortunately, for OSH professionals, there are potentially some quick wins in this area, many of which are driven by good employer-employee relations. Fundamentally, wherever aspects of work have a safety and health dimension, paying attention to the voices of workers and involving them in decisions is doubly useful. On the one hand, the insight and first-hand knowledge workers provide may be invaluable when it comes to improving the overall experience of safety and health. On the other, including workers’ opinions meaningfully in organisational decision making is one way to develop feelings autonomy and control.

What employers can do

As part of its Catch the Wave drive, IOSH has developed a series of bite-sized e-learning courses.

Among these is the ‘Work and environment’ course, a short online course exploring how good occupational safety and health can create a culture and environment where everyone can find purpose, autonomy, and job satisfaction.

Find out more about this and other courses on our dedicated webpage here.

Further information

You can see part one of the series here.

About the survey:

In October 2022, IOSH commissioned BF Media to survey workers, line managers and senior leaders on how people were feeling at work. Responses were received from 2,152 workers and 992 managers (714 line managers and 278 senior leaders), all of whom were based in the UK and worked for companies with five or more employees.