Years ago, questions about employee rights were reserved for the offices of company HR departments, while advice about how to handle an office romance was dished out by co-workers around the water cooler, or whilst huddled around a filing cabinet. But now, with technology guiding us through modern life, the go-to approach is simple: Google it.
We decided to look into what UK office workers were searching for online around the topics of their boss, colleagues and work in general, using search query data from SEMrush, and the results were rather interesting to say the least…
It seems we’re a rather paranoid nation, with one of the top searched for boss-related terms being “can my boss watch me on CCTV from home” with 170 searches a month. This was followed by two results at fairly opposite ends of the spectrum: “how to kill your boss” and “does my boss fancy me”, both with 140 searches per month.
These three searches provided a pretty accurate summary of the overall results, with spying, getting revenge on and seducing evident as common themes throughout the most searched for phrases. More serious searches included “can I sue my boss for emotional distress” and several questions about what constitutes a sackable offence, which shows that we’re also turning to Google for more practical reasons.
It wasn’t all so heavy though; 10 people every month search for “do I have to invite my boss to my wedding”, a tricky dilemma many of us have had to consider.
Here are some more of most searched for queries:
We took a deeper look into the most common topics being searched for and found that searches containing the term “bully” had the greatest volume, closely followed by “pregnant” and “leaving” searches. This illustrates that, as well as some of the more extreme examples above, many of us are heading online to find the answers to serious, everyday questions.
These are the most common topics, the number of boss-related queries they appeared in, and the total search volume for these queries:
|Topic||Number of keywords||Total volume|
The searches around colleagues weren’t quite as severe or saucy as those reserved for bosses, but we still uncovered some interesting results about what the UK are searching about their co-workers.
“Does my colleague have a crush on me” featured highly in the results, with 90 searches a month, as workplaces around the country ditched the usual office gossip espionage, in favour of a quick Google search. In fact, in our topic analysis, “like”, “crush” and “fancy” terms had a combined monthly search volume of 480. It’s clearly on our minds!
Office politics also dominated the results, with “how to resolve conflict with a colleague” and “how to work with a colleague who undermines you” both racking up 50 searches a month. The fact that people are searching for these is surely a positive step, as there is a plethora of advice and material out there online to help employees keen to improve their relationships in the office. Although, 30 people each month look to have given up on this completely by asking “can I refuse to work with a colleague”.
These are some of the top searches around colleagues:
The examples of office romance and HR queries above were an accurate snapshot of the overall dataset, with “complaint”, “complain” and “conflict” joining the list of the most commonly mentioned topics:
|Topic||Number of keywords||Total volume|
Not as many employees searched about their actual job or workplace as they did about bosses or colleagues, and the queries were much more varied, covering everything from “can debt collectors call my work” to “what to wear to my work Christmas party”.
It also didn’t paint the UK as particularly honest, with 90 of us asking “can I lie about my work experience”, while 30 people a month wanted to know “how to unblock Facebook on my work computer” for some relief from their 9-to-5 routine.
There were more examples of HR-related queries, with “can I sue my work for stress” racking up 50 searches a month and 30 people asking, “can my work sack me for being off sick”. This thirst for employment law knowledge paints a picture of a UK workforce who are keen to understand more about their rights regarding work, bosses and colleagues.
These were some of the key work-related searches that we picked out:
Finally, we also used machine learning to analyse the sentiment behind the searches in the three different categories, with each individual query receiving a score.
The results were surprisingly encouraging for managers up and down the country (especially considering 140 people are searching for how to kill their boss every month!) with 76% of all boss-related queries positive.
This was considerably higher than for searches about colleagues, which was 59% positive. Maybe we should have expected this, with the most common topics such polar opposites! The UK were least positive about their work or workplace, which consisted of only 45% positive searches, and 31% negative, which was twice that of boss and colleague searches.