The Great British Productivity Debate


In recent years, productivity has been seen by some as the root of all the UK economy’s problems. For businesses up and down the country productivity is no less important. Organisations that improve the productivity of their staff are likely to have greater profitability, as well as increase their chances of developing and retaining a happy and motivated workforce.


Employers have the power to improve productivity


Productivity is vital, but the approach employers take when managing their employees can actually damage overall productivity. Canada Life Group Insurance research recently discovered that a significant proportion – nearly half (45%) of UK employees – say their employer doesn’t understand how to improve productivity.


Almost a fifth of employees (16%) feel poor management and a lack of recognition are having a negative impact on their work, while four in five (81%) say their line manager fails to motivate, empower or support them. Neglecting staff members is a one-way street to a reduction in productivity and business performance. It is evident that many UK businesses have to do more to support and appreciate their staff.


Thankfully, simple remedies such as better communication of an organisation’s values, or company-wide initiatives such as engagement practices, can help employees to feel valued and boost their contributions to business performance.


Workplace environment and productivity intrinsically linked


Alongside the employers themselves, the environment of a workplace can also significantly influence overall productivity levels. Our research found that three in ten (30%) workers feel anxious or stressed because of high workloads and pressure to perform, which routinely impacts their productivity. This is the equivalent to 9.7 million employees – nearly a sixth of the country’s entire population, and almost a third of the working population.


Employers have to create a better working environment to increase engagement and boost productivity. Initiatives such as flexible working help massively. They not only improve work-life balance, but also have a positive influence on overall employee health.


People want to give their best, but we are all leading increasingly busy lives. Allowing employees to fit in time to exercise, drop off and collect their children from school or start/finish earlier or later can make an enormous difference to productivity. In fact, three quarters (77%) of employees told us flexible working has improved their overall productivity.


Flexible working initiatives demonstrate that employers care about their staff and are prepared to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to ensure employees work at their best, which can only be a good thing for companies.


Building an office space fit for employees


Employers should also pay close attention to the office space itself. Ensuring employees are physically supported with properly adjusted seating can help to reduce time lost to musculoskeletal conditions. Similarly, making sure work spaces are well lit and properly ventilated will prevent loss of productivity due to employee discomfort.


These days, productivity is intertwined with technology and employees need to have the right tools to carry out their work efficiently. This means keeping work equipment updated and in good working order. According to electronics company Sharp, the average British employee wastes 40 minutes a day because of slow technology.[i] Ensuring adequate investment and budgeting for equipment and training can improve productivity levels both in the short term and help future-proof businesses.


In addition to flexible working and the office space itself, the workplace environment can be improved through the introduction of employee benefits and perks. A quarter (25%) of employees admitted that employee benefits and perks would have the most positive impact on their productivity at work.


Employers should seriously consider supporting their staff through a corporate benefits package. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), often provided as part of Group Income Protection products, can provide help if an employee is struggling with issues which may affect their work, such stress and anxiety or relationship difficulties.  


By investing in GIP, employers can support their employers and help reduce their levels of stress and anxiety. This can go a long way to improving the environment of the workplace and boosting productivity.


[i] Sharp survey cited in Bloomberg