The real cost of the UK productivity crisis: £4,500 lost on every unproductive worker

  • Unproductive workforce costing British businesses a total of £22 billion each year
  • Only 1 in 4 UK employees believe they are consistently productive at work
  • Average UK worker spends 1 hour 24 minutes a day on tea breaks, chatting and on social media

New research from totaljobs has found that workers spend 1 hour 24 minutes of the working day being unproductive, costing British businesses £22 billion each year.  The study of more than 1,000 workers and over 250 employers exposed the causes of the UK’s productivity crisis, which is costing businesses an average of £4,467 per employee every year.

With the UK’s productivity output trailing other G7 nations, the research found that nearly an hour and a half of every working day is spent being unproductive and only 24% of UK employees think they are consistently productive at work.  Meanwhile, nine in 10 (88%) British bosses believe their workforce is productive ‘most or all of the time’, showing that perhaps bad work habits are being hidden.

Worryingly, one in 10 employees (11%) admit to being unproductive for over four hours each day at work, so it’s vital that employers offer solutions to help their team combat this lack of productivity.

Top workplace distractions

Tea and coffee breaks remain the main source of distraction for Brits in the workplace (13%), followed by disturbances from colleagues talking around them (11%), boredom (10%) and excessive meetings and emails (8% each).

Top 5 causes of distraction:

  1. Coffee/Tea Breaks
  2. Colleagues talking
  3. Boredom
  4. Excessive meetings
  5. Excessive emails

How to solve this crisis?

One in three (33%) workers believe that shortening the working day would improve their own productivity, and 36% of employers agreed. 14% of British bosses admit they’d like to introduce ‘social media blackout hours’ to limit workplace distractions, whilst 16% felt they needed to do more to reduce the email flow for their employees.

Positively, employers are recognising the steps that they can take to help fix the problem. One in four (23%) workers say their bosses have already introduced flexible working options to increase productivity whilst others have been given the option to work from home (12%), and are encouraged to take lunchbreaks away from their desks (10%). Some said their employer has attempted to increase productivity by not expecting them to be at work longer than their paid hours (11%).

Grace Marshal, Productivity Expert explained the causes of the lack in productivity: “Our productivity crisis is an attention crisis. The UK workforce is full of brilliant brains, but when those brains are distracted, overwhelmed, or bored, we end up creating more noise that just keeps us busy.

“Sitting in front of a screen for long hours is not going to produce our best work. Neither will back to back meetings nor endless email chains. Companies who help their workers to focus rather than fragment their attention are the ones who will lead the way in reclaiming the UK’s productivity.”

David Clift, HR Director at totaljobs, said: “Our research reveals the extent of the productivity crisis within the UK workforce. This issue is simultaneously impacting both individual workers and British businesses. To effectively tackle this crisis, both staff and employers must work together to ensure necessary steps are taken to boost productivity. Even small changes, such as ensuring staff take their full lunch break, can have huge benefits on individual productivity.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of British companies using simple, but effective techniques to boost the productivity of their staff, from offering shorter working hours, encouraging employees to work remotely, or providing in-house exercise classes during lunch breaks.”

Chris Torres, Director at Senshi Digital in Glasgow, who has introduced a six-hour working day at his digital marketing agency to boost productivity said, “It made a positive impact on the business instantly. My team is now more focused, more creative, and ultimately, they have a better work/life balance. We’ve found that allowing our staff to come up with their own ideas and testing these out is really beneficial for team bonding and boosting the morale of the company. Since introducing these changes, the business has been more productive, and we’ve seen faster growth and higher profitability. Most importantly of all, my staff are now happier.”