Rebecca Wayman

Is the UK's workforce less productive than its European counterparts?

A study has been launched by the Workforce Institute Europe which has said to reveal why the UK workforce is less productive than those in Europe.

British workers have supposedly underperformed in almost every aspect in the workplace. This has included lack of productivity, spending more working time on social media and working more often at home and sleeping few hours less than European countries.

Over 3,000 full-time workers across Germany, France and the UK found this is set to get worse as younger generations are less able to work effectively with new technology and changing working practices. They are quicker to adopt new technology but less able to make it productive.

Claire Richardson, chair of Workforce Institute Europe commented: “The research shows significant differences in the way UK, 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 UK 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 is an industry body made up of HR and industry specialists, brought together to discuss the key issues that hinder performance in companies and industries across Europe.

The company’s study found that UK workers spend the least amount of time actually working whilst at work. Less than half (46 percent) of UK workers work more than seven hours a day, while 63 percent of their French - and 67 percent of their German - counterparts work for more than seven hours of their working day.

Only one in five (21 percent) of UK 16-25 year olds complete seven to eight hours of “work-related activity” in their working day, well below the national average of 35 percent.

With more than a quarter (26 percent) of all UK workers working for only around five hours a day, there is a clear productivity gap. In addition, social media is said to have a huge impact, with nearly two thirds (64 percent) 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 percent) claiming they are distracted by technology at work, while in Germany this applies to less than a quarter (24 percent) of the workforce.

The worst affected are younger workers, who are most likely to be “always on” with four in every five (87 percent) of 16-25 year olds bringing their work home with them.

More experienced workers maintaining a better work-life balance, with 38 percent of those over 45 years of age doing absolutely no work activity at home.

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

Bruce Daisly, EMEA VP of Twitter concluded: “While it’s easy to ignore the problem if productivity is growing, the difference between the performance of the UK 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.”

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