POSTED: October 17 2017
Productivity is down. Is the UK attitude to work and social media to blame?

Productivity is down. Is the UK attitude to work and social media to blame?

When it comes to productivity and work habits, UK workers lag behind French and German workers. Research shows that blurred lines between work-life balance, social media and lack of sleep are major causes.

A study launched by The Workforce Institute Europe revealed that British workers are consistently underperforming in almost every aspect in the workplace. This trend is not going to change anytime soon as younger generations are less able to work effectively especially with new technology and changing working practices.

When it comes to work UK workers were found to spend the least amount of time actually working. Less than half (46%) of UK workers work more than seven hours a day, while 63% of their French, and 67% of their German, counterparts work for more than seven hours of their working day. The problem only gets worse with the younger generations as, only one in five (21%) of UK 16-25 year olds complete 7-8 hours of “work related activity” in their working day, well below the national average of 35 percent. With more than a quarter (26%) of all UK workers working for only around 5 hours a day, there is a clear productivity gap.

Getting Social

The advancement of social media has had the most damaging impact on the productivity of the youngest British workers.

Not only are they the most active users at home (89%), but also at work, nearly two thirds (64%) of workers under the age of 24 admitting to using their personal social media accounts for more than 30 minutes a day at work. This casual attitude to productivity at work is further reflected by the rest of the British workforce, with more than a third (35%) claiming they are distracted by technology at work, while in Germany this applies to less than a quarter (24%) of the workforce.

Other potential contributing factors to this productivity spiral is that British workers are less able to set boundaries between their work and home life. They are the most likely to use work apps on their personal devices (81%) and they also work from home more often, compared to France and Germany (73%, 63%, 70% respectively).

The worst affected are younger workers, who are most likely to be “always on” with four in every five (87%) of 16-25 year olds bringing their work home with them. More experienced workers maintaining a better work-life balance, with 38% of those over 45 years of age doing absolutely no work activity at home.

Claire Richardson, Chair, Workforce Institute Europe commented on the findings: “The research shows significant differences in the way U.K., German, and French workers operate, and a close correlation between an Always On relationship with technology and lower productivity. To halt the consistent decline in U.K. productivity, all industries need to take a close look at the way we work with technology and develop a tailored and flexible strategy that helps our workers balance work and life according to how they work best. Technology has a key role to play in improving productivity, and our role as employers is to provide the workforce with the skills they need to become empowered, not less productive, by technology. The Workforce Institute Europe will continue to collaborate with experts in this field to set the agenda for the workplace of the future.”

The Working Dead

We are also becoming a nation of sleep deprived zombies.

More than a quarter of UK workers under 24 years old (28%) have been woken by a work email or text, considerably more than in France (10%) and Germany (15%)

Also, the majority of UK workers under 24 years old (53%) sleep less than six hours a night, while most workers aged 55 and older (58%) get over 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. In Germany, on the other hand, it is the minority (40%) of workers under 24 years old that aren’t getting adequate sleep. It is a similar story in France, with over two-thirds (68% getting at least 7 hours sleep a night.

Getting adequate rest is integral for maintaining a productive and positive attitude at work. The study found that this extends to the wider workforce, with half (50%) of British workers regularly get less than six hours sleep – two hours less than the National Institute of Health’s recommended amount. One in five (20%) regularly get as little as 4 hours every night.

In addition to this, Bruce Daisly, EMEA VP, Twitter had the following to say: “While it’s easy to ignore the problem if productivity is growing, the difference between the performance of the U.K. and other countries compels us to think differently. To suggest a sweeping overhaul of the way we work is never the right approach in business. It’s about small changes, turning off the unread badges on your mobile phone’s email icon for example. If everyone makes a small positive change they all add up on aggregate and it can make a big difference.”


This article was written by Kimberley Dondo of Reward Magazine. You can see her original article here.