Findings in O2’s report show that 7 in 10 (71%) workers agree the recession is making British people reconsider what they believe to be important to them and what will make them happy ‘ 93% of which believe to be a good thing. The report shows that the vast majority of the 1,201 British workers surveyed by ICM and O2* see work as a means to an end with more than 8 in 10 (83%) saying that people ‘should work to live, not live to work’ ‘ a radical shift from the ‘greed is good’ mentality of the 1980s and the property-fuelled consumerism of the mid-2000s.

The O2 Working Values Report also reveals that achieving personal happiness and contentment is a top priority for many Brits: nearly 3 in 5 workers (58%) say they would proactively choose to earn less money if they could work for a company that ‘provides them with time to pursue their interests’. This desire is fuelling a renewed interest in work-life balance over the last 12 months:

  • 95% of workers say having a good work life balance is important today.
  • Almost half of those surveyed (48%) also agree that work-life balance is more important to them now that it was 12 months ago ‘ only 3% saying it is less important.
  • 44% also say that having control over the way they spend their time has become more important to them over the last 12 months.
  • More than half (53%) disagree with the statement ‘work should come first even if it means less spare time’. Just 1 in 5 (20%) agree.

British workers also want to skill-up ‘ both professionally and personally ‘ in today’s tougher economic climate:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) workers say that being able to develop your skills at work is important.
  • Nearly half (47%) say that improving skills to enhance employability and CVs is now more important that it was 12 months ago (rising to 66% amongst 18-24 year olds). 
  • And 2 in 5 workers (39%) agree that being able to ‘develop personal skills, hobbies and interests’ is now more important to them than it was 12 months ago. 

Ann Pickering, HR Director at Telefonica O2 UK Ltd, comments on the report findings: ‘The onset of recession in the British led to significant changes for many of us. Whilst there is speculation that there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the last 12 months will have had a long-lasting effect ‘ and as our report indicates for many that means a reassessment of what is important in life. 

‘As an employer of more than 13,000 people in the UK, O2 knows how important it is to keep in touch with what people want from their career. O2 prides itself on its reputation as one of the best employers in Britain** and we are committed to staying connected with the goals and needs of our workforce so we continue to have a happy, motivated and dynamic work culture at O2. We want to ensure we help our people achieve their personal and professional goals today and as we head into a new decade that will start with significantly different goals than we’ve seen in the last 5 or 6 years. 

‘Training is a key focus for O2 and we continue to invest to help our people achieve their professional goals. At the same time we also continue to promote initiatives that allow people to realise their personal goals; we have a Learning Fund that gives O2 employees money to learn a new skill of their choice ‘ be it stand-up comedy or cooking. We also give a grant of £1,000 to 10 employees each year to help them with their hobbies and personal interests. This year one of the recipients, a keen amateur film-maker, used his grant to show his film at The Cannes Film Festival; such an amazing personal achievement for him.’

The O2 Working Values Report also investigated the causes behind the nation’s cultural shift by asking respondents about the things that were important to them. The findings indicate that the ‘more more more’ consumer mantra of the early- and mid-2000s property boom has been replaced by a more measured, traditional focus on economising and enjoying time with loved ones:

  • 95% of workers say family is important in their lives today ‘ with 78% saying family is very important.  
  • 89% say friends are important and 93% say leisure time is important today. 
  • 73% say work is important today ‘ with only 19% saying it is very important. 

Comparing the O2 Working Values 2009 report to the 2005 World Values Survey* shows that little has changed in what workers see as important over the last 4 years. However, there are some deeper changes in society’s values. The 2005 report, carried out during the economic boom, found that 86% of workers saw work as ‘quite’ or ‘very’ important in their lives. In O2’s survey, the figure fell by 13% indicating that the recession has led to a general decline in the importance of work in people’s lives as they look to their home and social lives to provide more satisfaction.

Evidence for this also comes from the change in attitudes to consumption; more than half (56%) say the recession has ‘reduced my desire to consume things I don’t need’. And far from this being a cause for concern, 91% think this is a good thing. Almost 3 in 5 (58%) say the recession has ‘led to me putting more emphasis on low cost ways of enjoying life like spending time with family, gardening or watching TV’. Again, 91% say this change say it is a good thing and just 2% regret it.

For more information, see the ‘O2 Working Values’ Report Findings Summary.


About O2’s employer initiatives


         O2 Learning Fund: O2 offers all employees a Learning Fund where they can save money to spend on a course of their choice (can be anything from web design to cooking or singing lessons). O2 then matches 50% of the savings.

         O2 Dreamcatcher: The O2 employee ‘Dreamcatcher’ competition offered ten people in O2 the chance to make their dream wish come true with a £1,000 grant to help them with their personal interests.


         O2 volunteering: O2 helped ten UK employees realise an important personal goal by arranging for them to volunteer for 3 weeks with the Telefonica Foundation Pronino in South America. All volunteers worked on projects to eradicate child labour in Latin America.



Case studies


         Martin Humphrey: Martin works for O2’s Business Support Unit at the Arlington Business Centre and used his Dreamcatcher award to help him realise his dream of making a film about Midge, the one-eyed cat he adopted from a Cat Rescue twelve years ago. Martin was so convinced of the film’s potential to become a successful children’s film that he took the short film to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2009 where it went down a storm. He has since had extensive media interest and his film has been on ITV’s ‘Animals Do the Funniest Things’.

         Sarah Wilson: Sarah, a senior HR Business Partner based at O2’s head office in Slough, used her O2 Learning Fund to help realise a personal dream of creating her own line of jewellery. Sarah receives funding for her Jewellery & Silversmithing course and she attends the course once a week to share ideas, learn new techniques and work on projects set by the tutor. Sarah started out with making the jewellery for herself, but her family and friends have been ordering silver designs from her – she has even designed the bridesmaids’ jewellery for one of work colleagues.

         Carl Denning: Carl works for O2 in Leeds and has been learning stand-up comedy in his spare time using O2’s Learning Fund. Whilst many people might be learning computer skills or negotiation skills at work, Carl Denning chose a different kind of presentation training for his training allowance.   Since finishing the 10-week comedy course at The Comedy Store in Manchester, Carl has been doing a number of gigs across the region and also performed 3 gigs at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.


         Nikki Holloway: By day Nikki is a Talent Development Consultant O2 UK but in her other life, so to speak, she belongs to a group called ‘Cover Girls’ who sing in pubs and social clubs around Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire and also perform at weddings and parties. Singing is a passion of Nikki’s and she greatly appreciates the support she gets from her employer as she pursues her personal interest. The group entered the X-Factor this year and whilst not making it through to the final rounds, Nikki and the group got great feedback from the judges in their 3 auditions and will try again next year. Throughout the process O2 ensured Nikki would be free to attend auditions. 

         Rachel Harris is head of Devices and Solutions Finance at O2 and volunteered in the town of Pisco in Peru ‘ a town almost completely destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami two years ago. Rachel was shocked by how little had been done to rebuild the town and found living in the centre of the town a very surreal experience; ‘a bit like living in the film set for the aftermath of a bomb’. Rachel was overwhelmed by how much the group’s visit meant to the teachers, parents and the people of Pisco.  Telefonica, O2’s parent company, had funded the rebuilding of the school earlier in the year, and, as Rachel describes, ‘the fact that a group of people from five countries had given up their holidays to come and help meant an awful lot. I am very proud to work for a company that does so much to try and break the cycle of child labour and has just helped me to have the most amazing experience of my life.’

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