Workers Have Spoken: The Best UK Cities and Regions for Employee Experience


March 28, 2022

Key Findings

  • Using Glassdoor’s unique database of employee insights, we analysed over 300,000 reviews on www.glassdoor.co.uk from UK-based employees to look at local differences in employee experience.
  • London employees are the most satisfied overall with their work. Brighton’s workers rate their employers highest for diversity & inclusion and work-life balance, while Manchester employees are the most satisfied with their compensation & benefits.
  • Across the UK, culture & values is consistently the highest-scoring workplace factor in employee experience, while compensation & benefits is the lowest.
  • Employees in individual regions and cities often mention concerns specific to those areas – such as the high cost of living in Oxford or the benefit of creative coworkers in Brighton. 
  • Other worries, especially parking and understaffing, are shared throughout the UK.

Want to know what an employer is really like to work for? Then find out from those who know the company the best – the employees. Workers throughout the UK turn to Glassdoor to anonymously share their experience at work with others, including employees from Oxford, whose economy is dominated by the English-speaking world’s oldest university; London, the capital, with jobs in just about every sector that exists; Brighton, full of creative industries and artists; Manchester, the world’s first industrialised city now centred around its knowledge economy; and many more. But how do local employees’ experiences differ – and how are they the same?

Using Glassdoor’s unique database of employee insights, we analysed over 300,000 reviews by UK-based employees posted between 1 January 2021 and 28 February 2022 to examine differences in employee experience throughout the UK.

Employee Satisfaction Ratings Across Cities in the UK

The table below highlights average overall job ratings as well as individual workplace factors by selected cities, which includes not only the city itself but also smaller nearby suburbs, benchmarked against the averages across the UK.

Job Ratings by Selected City

Selected CityOverall RatingCareer OpportunitiesWork-Life BalanceDiversity & InclusionCulture & ValuesSenior LeadershipCompensation & BenefitsPositive Business Outlook
UK3.823.523.613.893.733.483.4664%
London 3.92*3.64*3.69*3.95*3.85*3.57*3.53*68%*
Brighton3.89*3.523.74*4.01*3.80*3.543.5264%
Oxford3.89*3.553.633.883.773.503.38*63%
Bristol3.89*3.59*3.73*3.93*3.82*3.58*3.54*66%*
Manchester3.88*3.62*3.68*4.00*3.80*3.58*3.55*66%*
Devon (Exeter, Plymouth)3.863.543.623.97*3.773.523.4863%
Leeds3.83*3.513.64*3.93*3.743.51*3.4763%*
West Midlands (Wolverhampton, Coventry, Birmingham) 3.79*3.46*3.58*3.903.66*3.41*3.41*61%*
Nottingham3.793.44*3.55*3.883.67*3.41*3.38*60%*
Wales (Cardiff, Newport, Swansea) 3.77*3.46*3.583.903.67*3.463.4263%
Liverpool3.77*3.42*3.55*3.893.66*3.43*3.38*61%*
Sheffield3.75*3.43*3.583.893.61*3.42*3.37*59%*
Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen)3.74*3.40*3.52*3.883.61*3.35*3.35*59%*
Belfast3.73*3.44*3.53*3.913.61*3.42*3.35*62%*
Note: Green = the city with the highest rating for the category; red = the lowest. *Indicates the mean rating is significantly different (p < 0.05) from the overall UK mean
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research, https://www.glassdoor.com/research/

London tops the list with an average rating of 3.92, bolstered by the UK’s highest sub-ratings in career opportunities, culture & values, and positive business outlook (the percentage of employees who believe their employer’s business outlook is positive). As the capital of the UK and the home to nearly a sixth of its population, many industries thrive in London that are less viable elsewhere. Often London employees, especially those in concentrated or niche industries, can find jobs and progress upwards  in their careers more easily than elsewhere – although this has begun to change with the increase in newly remote work – and businesses can count on a steady supply of workers and customers.  

Although London jobs pay the highest salaries in the UK, London ranks only third-highest in compensation & benefits – possibly a result of the contrast between its wages and exceptionally high living costs.

In contrast, workers in Greater Manchester are the most satisfied with their compensation & benefits, likely a result of their relatively high wages in comparison to many other Northern cities. Brighton employees rate their companies the highest for diversity & inclusion and work-life balance, in keeping with its laid- back and open-minded reputation, and employers in Bristol and Manchester stand out for their senior leadership. Career opportunities are clearly connected with high population density; cities with strong career opportunities ratings are those in the South East of England (London, Bristol, Oxford), in addition to Greater Manchester – the UK’s second most populous metropolitan area, while Northern English, Scottish, and Welsh cities have significantly lower scores. 

At the lower end of the table, Scottish cities have the lowest ratings in four of the eight workplace factors, Nottingham ranks poorly for diversity & inclusion and workers in Belfast find their compensation and overall job satisfaction to be lacking.

Employee Satisfaction Ratings Across UK Regions

We also looked at average job ratings in each of the UK’s 12 regions, as shown in the table below. Greater London topped the list in nearly every workplace factor, although the North West had the highest satisfaction rate for diversity and inclusion. Across all regions, diversity & inclusion ratings scored highest of all the workplace factors, with culture & values just behind. Employees seemed least satisfied with their senior leadership and compensation & benefits – a particularly urgent issue in the face of increased worries about inflation.

Job Ratings by Region

RegionOverall RatingCareer OpportunitiesWork-Life BalanceDiversity & InclusionCulture & ValuesSenior LeadershipCompensation & BenefitsPositive Business Outlook
United Kingdom3.823.523.613.893.733.483.4664%
Greater London3.89*3.61*3.66*3.91*3.82*3.54*3.51*67%*
South West 3.823.513.65*3.873.733.483.4863%*
South East 3.813.49*3.623.91*3.733.473.4763%*
North West 3.80*3.523.603.92*3.713.493.48*64%
East of England3.79*3.48*3.613.86*3.69*3.44*3.4462%*
North East 3.78*3.45*3.55*3.863.67*3.463.4662%*
Yorkshire and the Humber3.78*3.46*3.593.86*3.66*3.44*3.43*61%*
West Midlands 3.78*3.46*3.56*3.883.65*3.42*3.42*61%*
East Midlands 3.77*3.45*3.55*3.86*3.65*3.42*3.41*60%*
Wales3.75*3.43*3.53*3.84*3.63*3.42*3.40*61%*
Northern Ireland3.74*3.43*3.53*3.893.60*3.42*3.35*62%*
Scotland3.72*3.38*3.49*3.83*3.57*3.33*3.35*58%*
Note: Green = the region with the highest rating for the category; red = the lowest. *Indicates the mean rating is significantly different (p < 0.05) from the overall UK mean
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research, https://www.glassdoor.com/research/

Mental Health to Parking: What Are Employees Across the UK Talking About?

To further dive into the nuances of employee experience in each location, we examined commonly used words and phrases across the UK. The tables below show some of the top words that appeared in each location.

Common Keywords by Selected City

CityKeywords in prosKeywords in cons
BelfastFlexi-, promotion, generous, parking, coworkerBoring, incentive, competitor
BrightonRespect, coffee, creative, localUnderstaffed, disorganised, restructure, trust, health
BristolMental health, hybrid, forward-thinking, lunch, ethicsBoring, tough
Devon (Plymouth, Exeter)Ethics, beautiful, campus, coffeeParking, boring, understaffed, responsibility, unsociable
LeedsParking, coffee, honestTrust, recognition, parking
LiverpoolHybrid, flexi-, promotion, parkingParking, unsociable, boring, food
LondonTalented, transparent, network, ambitious, visionCompensation, bureaucracy, political
ManchesterMental health, generous, genuine, earnUnsociable, parking
NottinghamGenuine, parking, university, earnTrust, restructure, boring, parking
OxfordUniversity, academic, research, science, parkingExpensive, trust, parking, university
Scotland (Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh)University, mental health, promotionBoring, understaffed, tough
SheffieldParking, coffee, local, networkParking, unsociable
West Midlands (Wolverhampton, Coventry, Birmingham) Parking, modern, promotion, honest, ethics, teamworkFavouritism, parking, trust, unsociable
Wales (Cardiff, Newport, Swansea)Parking, promotion, coffee, flexi, annual leaveUnsociable, understaffed, incentive
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (www.glassdoor.com/research)

Many common words were shared across cities, demonstrating that despite their differences, the issues of parking and coffee unite UK employees – at least those outside of London!

In cities with economies dominated by universities, like Oxford, Nottingham, and the Scottish cities (Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh), university is frequently mentioned in positive reviews from satisfied university employees or students praising their jobs for fitting well around their uni schedules. Notably, university also appears in the cons section for Oxford, indicating that its universities loom large in local labour market discussion. 

London’s commonly used words, including talented, vision, network and ambitious, reflect its background as a global city that attracts talent throughout the world, while Brighton’s employees appreciate their creative coworkers and local-focused working environments. Bristol employees’ focus on mental health and forward thinking bolster its reputation as one of the UK’s most progressive cities, while Devon’s employees often praise the beautiful views that come with working in one of the UK’s most attractive areas.

Parking is also the subject of much negative sentiment, with access to or cost of parking showing up as a common complaint in the majority of cities examined. Other words shared across the UK underline the importance of the work environment outside just the physical office; many employees dislike the lack of trust in their work, although such trust is integral to the new wave of remote-friendly jobs. London employees dislike the political and bureaucratic nature of their work, while those in the West Midlands cities (Wolverhampton, Coventry and Birmingham) mention favouritism in their offices.

Some concerns appear uniquely problematic in particular cities; expensive is a common word in Oxford, whose compensation & benefits rating – unlike nearly all its other workplace factor ratings – is significantly below average. The research also found redundancy to be of concern to workers in Nottingham, indicating the uncertainty they may be feeling. Brighton’s employees often mention health, or more specifically their employers’ inability to take care of it.

Other commonly used words and phrases paint a picture of an overworked and burnt out workforce. With so many employees working remotely over the past year, companies have had to work harder than ever to ensure their employees feel a part of the culture. Yet with one in four employees feeling less connected to company culture, and employees in many metros often complaining about their office being boring or unsociable, it is clear that employers still have a long way to go. With mentions of burnout on the rise in 2021, it’s unsurprising that so many employees discuss their work environment being understaffed, disorganised, and tough.

Common Keywords by Region

RegionKeywords in prosKeywords in cons
East MidlandsParking, coffee, modern, university, earn, ethicsParking, unsociable, trust, redundancy
East of EnglandLunch, generous, coffee, modern, teamworkParking, develop, recognition
Greater LondonMission, vision, ambitious, generous, lunch, transparentCompensation, bureaucracy, political
North East EnglandFlexi-, parking, coffee, teamwork, honestBoring, attitude, understaffed, parking, unsociable
North West EnglandAchieve, parking, mental health, modernParking, unsociable, micro-(management)
Northern IrelandFlexi-, promotion, coworker, generous, parkingBoring, incentive, security
ScotlandUniversity, network, mental health, coffeeBoring, understaffed
South East EnglandDirector, ethics, parking, lunch, genuine, generousParking, understaffed, micro-(management)
South West EnglandEthics, coffee, mental health, local, achieveParking, boring, trust
WalesParking, coffee, local, promotion, flexi-Understaffed, unsociable, attitude, incentive, parking
West MidlandsParking, promotion, ethics, forward thinking, modern, hybrid, coffeeParking, favouritism, boring
Yorkshire and the HumberParking, coffee, ethics, mental healthParking, boring, unsociable

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (www.glassdoor.com/research)

Parking again appears as a common interest amongst employees outside of London, with many praising their offices’ free or easily accessible parking. Mental health mentions are relatively high amongst employees in the North and South West of England, Scotland, and Yorkshire and the Humber, indicating that employers in these regions have prioritised this issue. Perhaps this has come as a response to increased concern about this issue, as reflected by the 500 percent increase in mental health discussion in Glassdoor reviews in the last three years.

Employees in Wales, Northern Ireland, North East England, and the West Midlands praise their employers’ focus on flexi-time or hybrid work, subjects that have drawn increased interest since the pandemic forced a complete revamping of many working environments.

Similarly to the city-level discussion, these regional results clearly show the exhaustion of employees throughout the UK. In addition to understaffed, boring, and unsociable, many reviews use the term micro as a reference to micro-management, a common but unwelcome management style – particularly in the age of remote work where managers can no longer physically see their employees. Northern Ireland’s workers are particularly focused on their workplaces’ lack of security, referring to both safety and job security. A similar sense of uncertainty also exists in the East Midlands with its references to redundancy and in Brighton and Nottingham’s mentions of restructure.

Conclusion

Our location analysis underlines the similarity of employee experiences across the UK. Although London employees are the most satisfied overall with their work, particularly the career opportunities available and culture & values of their organisations, workers elsewhere share many of the same thoughts and concerns. Employees report the lowest satisfaction with their compensation & benefits (an especially pertinent issue given recent sky-high inflation) and most satisfied with their company’s culture & values.

Employees in individual regions and cities often mention concerns specific to those areas – such as job security in Belfast or the benefits of forward-thinking companies in the West Midlands. Despite these distinctive aspects, many employees throughout the UK touch on the many of the same concerns – or benefits – of their offices, with employees caring about physical (like parking and coffee) as well as non-physical (like staffing levels and sociability of the office) aspects of the office. Regardless of location, our research shows the importance of giving all employees across the UK enough time to recharge, space to manage themselves, and the flexibility required to succeed at their work.

Methodology

We analysed reviews left by full- and part-time employees between January 1, 2021 and February 28, 2022. Only current employees or those who had left their job in the time period were included.

Using user-entered job locations, we grouped cities, towns and villages into metropolitan areas based on proximity to a central city. For example, a user-entered job location of Islington falls under London, Salford in Manchester, Lewes in Brighton, and Wigan in Liverpool.  All metropolitan areas included have at least 2,000 reviews over the time period.

For our regional analysis, we grouped user-entered job locations into the 12 UK regions. Reviews without user-entered job locations were grouped into the region in which the user is located when posting the review. All regions have at least 5,500 reviews over the time period. Ratings extend beyond the second decimal place for the purposes of ranking. Statistical significance is calculated using a two-tailed Welch hypothesis test.

To analyse review content, we examined the pros and cons section of reviews in each metro or region. To preprocess our reviews, we removed common words that do not add much meaning to a sentence, called stopwords, from all reviews and grouped together different forms of the same word as well as two- or three-word phrases (for example, ‘ran’, ‘run’ and ‘running’ would all be grouped together, as would ‘ethics’ and ‘ethical’), a process known as lemmatisation.

The selected keywords were all found among the top 20 words used after preprocessing and the removal of the top 1 percent of words used, which tend to be identical across every group and thus do not provide any insight.

To speak with Lauren Thomas about this report, please contact pr@glassdoor.com. For the latest economics and labor market updates follow @LaurenTEcon on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and subscribe to Glassdoor Economic Research.