South African employees are some of the happiest in the world

 ·21 Jun 2024

South African employees show higher levels of engagement and enthusiasm in their work compared to their global counterparts.

This is according to the annual findings from Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report, which is the world’s largest ongoing study of the employee experience.

“We examine how employees feel about their work and their lives, an important predictor of organisational resilience and performance,” said Gallup.

According to the report, South Africa’s employee engagement is estimated at 29%, surpassing the global average by 6%.

This is partly attributed to South Africa being classified as a “high labour rights” country, which means that labour regulation has a largely positive impact on workers’ lives and work experiences, particularly their levels of engagement and well-being.

An analysis by The Outlier shows that this figure has been increasing and is significantly higher than the sub-Saharan Africa (20%) average. By comparison, about 17% of those surveyed in Kenya and Nigeria were engaged employees.

High employee engagement is seen as good for business as it boosts productivity, improves retention, enhances customer service, and fosters innovation. This, in turn, creates a positive work environment, ultimately leading to cost savings through reduced turnover and better customer relations.

It is also a proxy for job satisfaction and overall happiness levels.

The rate of actively disengaged employees in South Africa—those who are dissatisfied with their current job and actively seeking new employment—has also decreased in the past few years. Currently at 11.7%, it is below the worldwide average of 15% and the regional average of 17%.

Employee engagement 2024-06-19
Graphic: The Outlier

Looking at different indicators, around 32% of South African employees say that they experience daily stress, placing it 27th out of 36 measured African countries.

Additionally, 15% reportedly experience daily anger, and 20% experience daily sadness at work, a two-percentage-point decrease from the previous year, ranking 30th and 29th out of 36 African countries measured.

Although considerably lower than in other countries, the report also highlights that around 56% of South African employees are watching for or actively seeking new jobs.

The report outlines that a major factor in this is people’s mental well-being, which has been worsening. Globally, 41% of employees report experiencing “a lot of stress.”

“In the last 10 years, the number of people expressing stress, sadness, anxiety, anger or worry has been on the rise, reaching its highest levels since the Gallup surveys began,” said Gallup CEO Jon Clifton.

According to the report, those who work in companies with bad management practices (actively disengaged) are nearly 60% more likely to be stressed than people working in environments with good management practices (engaged).

In fact, experiencing “a lot of stress” is reported approximately 30% more frequently by employees working under bad management than by the unemployed.

Read: What employees want from their workplace

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