1 in 5 of UK workers feel that they don’t belong at work.

  • 20% of the UK’s workforce don’t feel a sense of belonging at their workplace
  • More than one in four workers have felt pressure to hide or change something about themselves to fit in at work
  • Companies to lose out on workers in ‘The Great Resignation’ – or ‘The Great Recruitment Struggle’ if their values don’t align with candidates’
  • Randstad launches ‘Belonging Book’ to support leaders 

According to just-released research from global recruitment specialist Randstad, one in five of the UK’s workforce feel they don’t belong at their place of work. This increases to one in four of UK workers under-34. With approximately 31,000,000 workers in the UK, that means 6,200,000 colleagues feeling excluded. 

As organisations strive to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, this study of 1,199 Britons spanning public and private sector roles in industries including education, healthcare, government, construction and IT, uncovers the fact that fostering a sense of belonging has been overlooked by many British employers.

The exclusive data from YouGov has found that one in four workers have felt under pressure to hide elements of their lives to fit in at work, in matters relating to their sexuality, their home commitments, their background or their health. This pressure is more pronounced among young workers, increasing to more than one in three of those under-34. Younger workers can feel less secure in their roles and less confident about how they fit into their workplace, this is highlighted within the research which shows that over one in four under-34s (28%) have felt like an imposter at work.

Working on a contract or freelance basis also increases the pressure workers feel to hide or change something about themselves to fit in, at 39% and 34% respectively. Quickly fitting into an organisation can be challenging, especially in virtual settings where it is harder to build up rapport with colleagues. To assimilate and bond with a team, contract or freelance workers are more likely to keep their home and work lives separate, and even dial-up or down certain personality traits. 

In the same study, 23% of UK workers admitted feeling unable to be their authentic selves in the workplace. An inability to bring their full selves to work was more pronounced for individuals who identify as bisexual (38%) and for workers from a minority ethnic background (44%). 

The risk to British employers: ‘The Great Resignation’ – or ‘The Great Recruitment Struggle’?

UK economists have signalled ‘The Great Resignation’ in 2021 – employees quitting their jobs to seek a new professional challenge as pandemic restrictions lift. But, as well as losing existing staff, Randstad’s study found that Britain’s employers look set to miss out on new talent by failing to develop and uphold values that resonate with jobseekers. 60% of UK workers would turn down a job if a company’s values did not reflect their own, with women more likely than men, 65% compared to 55%, to decline an opportunity at a company if they perceived a mismatch in ethos and behaviours.

And it’s a growing trend among the younger cohort – those aged between 25 and 34 are more likely to turn down a job offer where an organisation’s values don’t reflect their own, with this declining gradually as people get older, 65% of 25-34-year-olds compared to 58% of those aged over 45. 

Sensitive subjects for the UK’s workers

Having children, miscarriage and mental health are all topics UK workers feel uncomfortable being open about in the workplace. A third of workers (30%) feel uncomfortable talking openly about their mental health. This increases to 41% of people who identify as gay or lesbian and 48% of people who are bisexual. 

A third of workers (30%) feel unable to confide in management, with a fifth of women (22%) uncomfortable being honest for the reasons they take sickness leave. As the lines between work and home blurred over the last 18 months, a third (31%) of UK workers with children have felt pressured to hide or change things about themselves to fit in at work. 

Laura Todd, Director of Inclusion and Wellbeing at Randstad UK & RSR EMEA, commented, “A sense of belonging at work is integral for people to feel valued and respected, fostering connections, and working towards shared goals. As workplaces across the UK seek to retain and attract talent through the ‘Great Resignation’, finding out what belonging means to your people and amplifying these values externally is crucial.

“Our research seeks to highlight how many UK workers feel a lack of belonging at work and how this leads to people being unable to be their true and authentic selves. A workplace that does not create a safe and open environment, a sense of belonging, will lead to decreased efficiency and increased staff turnover. As organisations focus on creating diverse and inclusive workforces, it is vital that they also take the time to ensure that all the people sitting around the table feel valued, trusted and welcome for the unique contributions they bring.”

Randstad has created a Belonging Book designed to support business leaders to understand and champion the importance of belonging within an organisation. The Belonging Book includes a series of tips and tools to help businesses create an environment where everyone can feel valued. 


Press Contacts: 


Laura Taylor, Instinctif Patterns, 07983 641898 / laura.taylor@instinctif.com 

Sebastian Holland, Instinctif Partners, 07879 086 840 / Sebastian.holland@instinctif.com 


A YouGov survey of 2,000 UK adults, with 1,199 respondents UK workers. 

The survey was carried out in August 2021. 

About Randstad

Randstad is the global leader in the HR services industry. We support people and organisations in realising their true potential by combining the power of today’s technology with our passion for people. We call it Human Forward. In 2020, we helped nearly two million candidates find a meaningful job with more than 236,000 clients. Furthermore, we trained close to 350,000 people. Randstad is active in 38 markets around the world and has a top-three position in almost half of these. In 2020, Randstad had on average 34,680 corporate employees and generated revenue of € 20.7 billion. Randstad was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. Randstad N.V. is listed on the NYSE Euronext (symbol: RAND.AS).       

For more information, see www.randstad.co.uk

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