Lack of flexibility is killing UK productivity


New research shows that highly engaged staff are more likely to be late for work, do personal tasks during working hours such as online shopping and checking social media accounts, and work from home.

According to the What’s killing UK productivity report that launched today, highly engaged staff have regular short breaks during working hours, however when they do sit down to work they are more focused, work longer hours and are more productive than those with low engagement.

In contrast, staff with low engagement appear to be restricted in what they can do: they are far more likely to arrive at work on time, not be allowed to work at home, and don’t perform personal tasks during working hours such as talking to colleagues.

The survey, commissioned by incentive and reward experts, Red Letter Days for Business, explored the hygiene factors in the workplace that are contributing to the UK’s productivity woes. According to Office for National Statistics figures, in 2015 UK workforces are 31% less productive than those of the US and 17% less productive than the rest of the G7 countries. This is despite workers in the UK working similar hours to elsewhere.

This research indicates that trust and flexibility are key components to create an engaged workforce. “Employees who enjoy more flexibility on timekeeping at work as well as where they work are more engaged, work longer hours and are more productive,” said Bill Alexander, CEO of Red Letter Days for Business.  “Highly engaged staff spend more time at work on personal tasks than staff with low engagement levels because they believe a break away from their work every now and then is a good thing. All staff should be given more autonomy and be able to self-govern their job roles.”

What day and time do employees feel most productive?
Most productive day
26% Monday                         
21% Tuesday                        
18% Wednesday                   
10% Thursday                       
15% Friday                             
Weekend    10% use the weekend to get their work done

Highly engaged staff  31% said Monday is their most productive day
Low engaged staff      24% said Friday is their most productive day

Most productive time of day
37%  8am-10am                            
29%  10:30am-11:30am                
11%  12pm-2pm                             
8%  2pm-3pm                                
5%  3pm-4:30pm                         
4%  4:30pm-6pm                           
5%  After 6pm                                 

Levels of engagement have little impact on the time when people are most productive, although a marginally higher proportion of people with low engagement (8%) prefer to work after hours compared to those with high engagement (5%).

“Working 9 to 5 is a bad idea,” continues Bill Alexander. “The results show that by not being too rigid about conventional Monday to Friday, nine to five working hours, employers could improve productivity among their workforces.

“Give staff freedom to switch from office tasks to personal time and it will have a motivating impact on a workforce.”

Recommendations for employers to improve employee engagement:
• Allow your staff to work from home.
• Give staff the flexibility to come into work early/late and leave early/late.
• Give internet access and allow the use of social media.
• Don’t chastise employees for doing personal tasks such as booking holidays – a break every now and then will allow them to work longer.
• Give staff a working environment where they can chat to colleagues.

The 2015 What’s killing UK productivity survey also found that just a third (35%) of British employees are highly engaged at work, while 50% were moderately engaged and 15% had no or low engagement.

Download the full report

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