A new report from the CIPD, which explores the quality of working lives in Scotland, shows significant numbers of Scotland's working population are losing sleep due to money worries, and are suffering from poor mental health, excessive workloads and stress.

The fourth annual Working Lives Scotland report surveyed over 1,000 Scottish workers. It found the worsening impact of the cost-of-living crisis has led to one in five (20%) working Scots losing sleep due to money worries, with nearly a third (32%) saying their employer is not doing enough to support their financial wellbeing.

In addition, challenges around the impact of work on mental health, excessive workloads and stress, as well as considerable gaps in flexible working or the opportunity to have their voice heard, persist. Poorer job quality outcomes for those in so-called key worker* roles stand out in particular, with nearly two in five (37%) saying their workload is too high.

In response, the CIPD urges a renewed focus on financial wellbeing and job quality more broadly from the Scottish Government and employers.

Marek Zemanik, CIPD’s senior public policy adviser for Scotland, comments:

“The cost-of-living crisis continues to cast a shadow over the working lives of people across Scotland. We have seen a considerable worsening of employees’ financial wellbeing year on year, with real impacts on their daily lives. Better pay is important, but there are many other steps employers can take to improve their employees’ lives.

“Focusing on job quality is key – through improved benefits packages and job design, better skills development and career advancement pathways, effective two-way communication and broader flexibility. Getting all these aspects right can make work fairer.

“Overall job quality has barely been impacted by the pandemic, but that means that serious gaps persist. All jobs have the potential to be better, but employers and governments need to know what to address. Our report helps them in this task.”

The CIPD surveyed 1,000 Scottish workers across the five Fair Work Framework dimensions: respect, security, fulfilment, opportunity and effective voice. From the results, the CIPD has identified three key areas that the Scottish Government and employers must address to support better working lives:

A renewed policy focus on financial wellbeing and improving job quality is needed:

  • Only about half (49%) of all Scottish employees say that they are keeping up with all bills and commitments without any difficulties. 20% have lost sleep due to money worries.
  • Over half of all employees (58%) – the highest level recorded since 2020 - report working despite not being well enough to do so. Disabled workers are more likely to report such presenteeism.
  • A fifth (20%) of employees say they have no voice channel at all at work. The availability of voice channels is considerably better in the public sector.

The gap between the quality of working life for key workers versus those in non-key worker roles must be narrowed to address current challenges and attract future workers:

  • We find key workers do poorer across most job quality aspects - from lower pay, through to heavier workloads and feelings of exhaustion, as well as poorer formal and informal flexibility.
  • 37% of key workers say their workload is “too much”, compared with 29% of those not in key worker roles. Key workers are also much more likely to feel they are not getting paid appropriately considering their responsibilities (44% disagree, versus 33% for non-key workers).
  • The only notable exception where key workers fare much better is in the meaningfulness of their work. 65% feel they are doing useful work for society, compared with 41% of those not in key worker roles.

We must look beyond remote and hybrid working to unlock the benefits of flexible working for more Scottish workers:

  • Remote and hybrid working is firmly embedded, with 9% of all Scots working from home all the time and another 44% working in a hybrid way.
  • However, a third (33%) of Scottish employees can’t - and another 11% don’t want to - work from home at all.
  • Significant gaps remain in the availability of other flexible working arrangements. While there has been an increase in the availability and use of homeworking, over half of all Scottish employees have no access to arrangements like flexi-time (53% unavailable), job sharing (76% unavailable), compressed hours (60% unavailable) or term-time working (75% unavailable).

The report concludes with a number of practical recommendations for employers to improve job quality, including:

  • Improve access to flexible working options and financial wellbeing support.
  • Train managers to be able to signpost to the right type of financial wellbeing support and empower employees to be heard.
  • Boost career progression and skills development pathways.
  • Identify and manage skills mismatches to engage and develop staff.
  • Focus on improving management quality that allows open and honest conversations around wellbeing.

Read the report


Notes to editors

  • “Key workers” are those whose job role was essential and critical to the COVID-19 response and fell under one of the categories listed by the government. This included health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport and utilities, communication and financial services. 
  • This survey report is based on the sixth annual UK Working Lives survey conducted in 2023. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,010 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th January - 9th February 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish working adults (aged 18+).

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