Employee Incentives News: UK employees unproductive for 2 hours a day

Productivity levels in offices across the UK have fallen dramatically, with one in three (31 per cent) office workers admitting they are unproductive for a huge two hours every day. The report, commissioned by office products firm Fellowes, found that 61 per cent of office workers are calling for a four-day week. It was also revealed that 40 per cent believe they would be more productive working from remotely.

Despite being the fifth largest economy in the world, the UK sits 15th in the productivity table, lagging behind the likes of Sweden (31 hours p/w), Denmark (27.2 hours p/w) and Norway (27.3 p/w).

Why aren’t we fired up and productive? 

The answer isn’t ‘working longer and harder’. According to a study published last month involving 600,000 people, those of us who clock up a 55-hour week will have a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than those who maintain a 35- to 40-hour week and according to a new study in the European Heart Journal, people who regularly work long hours are at far higher risk of heart disease than those who stick to their regular working day.

What do other countries do?


Employers across the country have already made the change to a 4-day working week according to the Science Alert website, which said the aim was to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people had the energy to enjoy their private lives.

Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the switch 13 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits in that time.

“They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs – everyone is happy,” the managing director Martin Banck told David Crouch at The Guardian, adding that profits have risen by 25 percent.


According to business culture, a normal working week runs from Monday to Friday and office hours are usually between 8 a.m. or 8.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Women work an average of 35 hours a week compared to 41 hours a week worked by men. However, 9 percent of the Danish workforce works more than 49 hours a week.


The typical Norwegian employee works five day weeks scheduled between 0600 and 1800 and has arranged work between 37 and 38 hours per week. In all, 31 per cent of all employees reported working outside regular working hours in 2005. The majority of the employees working inconvenient hours have shift work.


The four-day workweek is nearly standard in the Netherlands, and Dutch laws promote a work-life balance and protect part-time workers. All workers there are entitled to fully paid vacation days, maternity and paternity leave. A law passed in 2000 also gives workers the right to reduce their hours to a part-time schedule, while keeping their job, hourly pay, health care and pro-rated benefits. Overall, the entire workforce averages around 29 hours a week — the lowest of any industrialized nation, according to the OECD


So – where do we sit? Well, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), we’re actually relatively fortunate. The average Briton works 1,674 hours a year, according to its data for 2015 – or the equivalent of 32.2 hours per week. That’s less than Norway and Denmark.

What we can learn and how to increase productivity 

Fact: Willpower can be in short supply – so engage employees

You start each day with a limited supply of willpower and each decision you make or temptation you resist depletes your willpower (a term Baumeister called “ego depletion”) – and there’s a great piece here that covers off why! That means if you want employees to be engaged and productive, don’t make it so easy for them to opt out. Instead of micromanaging or letting them roam wild and free, get the balance perfectly right between mentoring, guiding and inspiring and managing, scheduling and spoon feeding.

Fact: Procrastination is more about fear of failure than fear or work.

You may know yourself that when you procrastinate, it’s not because you’re totally lazy, but you are feeling anxious, or apathy, or threat from the task ahead. Take away people’s worries and they are far more likely to get stuck into work.

Fact: Burnout is real – start setting boundaries

With the advent of smartphones, employees are accessible 24 hours per day, and thus the workday potentially never ends. It is important to clearly define your “work-time” and your “off-time” at a business level so this is cascaded down.

Fact: Great managers get more out of people

In his seminal work, “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M. R. Covey cites a study conducted by Watson Wyatt that showed, “Total return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations.”

In other words, when employees feel they can trust their leaders, investors tend to reap greater returns. If you are getting people sat about for 2 hours a day, it’s clear they do not respect your management – it’s just not possible.

If something is wrong with the front line employees of your business, it’s not the time to get your firing cannon out – it’s time to undertake management training.


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