Sewage Smells, Plumbing Leaks & Poor Lighting:
We’ve Uncovered The Most Common Workplace Complaints

From sewage smells and vermin to shabby carpets and grotty bathrooms, many of the UK’s workplaces are unpleasant, uncomfortable and at risk of driving down productivity and morale, according to new research* from Aspect.

A nationally representative poll of 2,000 people found that 83% of UK adults consider their workplace to be an “unpleasant” environment, with many citing uncomfortable temperatures, lack of natural light, unpleasant smells, damp and mould, poor ventilation and even vermin and insects among their complaints.


Top workplace complaints

  • Uncomfortable temperatures; too cold / too cold
  • Poor lighting and lack of natural light
  • Poor ventilation
  • Bad smells, including sewage
  • Condition of bathrooms and toilets


The study was designed to identify the most common causes of employee discomfort at work. On the whole, issues related to physical comfort were the most common complaints. 46% complained of workplaces that were “too hot”, 43% complained of workplaces being “too cold” and 28% complained of workplaces having poor ventilation.

Amenities were also a cause for concern. 21% complained about the condition of bathrooms, 16% cited shabbiness of flooring and carpets and 14% bemoaned a workplace’s poor quality fixtures and fittings. Other issues included intrusive noises, food smells, insect problems and dripping taps.

Workers aged 25-34 were the most likely to complain about their working environment and workers aged 55 and over were least likely. The condition of the UK’s workplaces appears to affect women and men differently too. While women were only marginally more likely than men to consider their place of work to be unpleasant, women and men do tend to have different complaints.

Water temperature, shabby flooring, condition of bathrooms, workplaces being too cold and food smells were more likely to be a problem for women. Sewage smells, intrusive sounds, insects, leaks and pests were more of a cause for concern for men.

83% of respondents rated their workplace environment as “unpleasant”

Too cold46%50%42%
Too hot43%43%43%
Lack of natural light31%32%30%
Bad lighting29%28%29%
Poor ventilation28%28%28%
Bad smells in general26%25%26%
Food smells22%24%20%
Condition of bathrooms21%24%18%
Intrusive noise/sounds20%20%21%
Sewage smells17%15%19%
Shabby carpet or tiles16%18%14%
Poor quality fixtures and fittings14%15%14%
Damp and mould13%13%12%
Pests and vermin11%11%12%
Water temperature11%13%9%
Plumbing leaks11%10%11%
Dripping water9%9%9%
Never been employed in a workplace2%2%3%
None of the above15%15%15%


*About the study. OnePoll surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults on behalf of Aspect, between 09/04/2019 and 10/04/2019. OnePoll are members of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research and employ members of the Marketing Research Society.

**Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand

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