Lack of flexibility is killing UK productivity

According to the What’s killing UK productivity report highly engaged staff have regular short breaks during working hours, however when they do sit down to work they are more focused, work longer hours and are more productive than those with low engagement.

In contrast, staff with low engagement appear to be restricted in what they can do: they are far more likely to arrive at work on time, not be allowed to work at home, and don’t perform personal tasks during working hours such as talking to colleagues.

Regular breaks make you more productive at work

Time employees spend on personal tasks each day

                                          half an hour                 hour                 two hours

make tea/coffee/hot drink                               69%                             18%                 13%

chat to colleagues on personal level               62%                             23%                 15%

answer personal emails or surf online            51%                             28%                 21%

check social media                                               44%                             32%                 24%


Nearly half of highly engaged employees regularly take part in personal tasks at work such as checking social media accounts or booking a holiday, because they believe a break away from their work every now and then is a good thing. 

Forty-six percent of highly engaged employees check their social media accounts at work every day, and a third of this group will spend up to two hours every single day doing so equating to 10 hours every week.

“Highly engaged employees are more productive so why are they spending so much time on social media?” asks Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business. “The research shows that despite these employees spending more time on personal tasks, when they sit down to do their job they are focused and have a better output – over three fifths of this group will also work overtime every single day, compared to half of low engaged employees who said they don’t work any overtime.”

The survey, commissioned by incentive and reward experts, Red Letter Days for Business, explored the hygiene factors in the workplace that are contributing to the UK’s productivity woes. According to Office for National Statistics figures, in 2015 UK workforces are 31% less productive than those of the US and 17 per cent less productive than the rest of the G7 countries. This is despite workers in the UK working similar hours to elsewhere.

Working 9 to 5 is a bad idea

What day and time do employees feel most productive? 

Most productive day

Monday                                   26%

Tuesday                                  21%

Wednesday                             18%

Thursday                                 10%

Friday                                      15%

Weekend                                 10% use the weekend to get their work done 


Highly engaged staff               31% said Monday is their most productive day

Low engaged staff                  24% said Friday is their most productive day


Most productive time of day

8am-10am                              37%

10:30am-11:30am                  29%

12pm-2pm                              11%

2pm-3pm                                8%

3pm-4:30pm                           5%

4:30pm-6pm                           4%

After 6pm                                5%

“Working 9 to 5 is a bad idea,” continues Bill Alexander. “The results show that by not being too rigid about conventional Monday to Friday, nine to five working hours, employers could improve productivity among their workforces.”

We should all work from home

Finally, the report reveals that despite the technology available to businesses in the 21st century nearly half of employees are still not allowed to work from home. However, out of those that do two fifths confirmed to be more productive at home compared to being in the office, and just fifteen percent said they are less productive.

This research indicates that trust and flexibility are key components to create an engaged workforce. “Employees who enjoy more flexibility on timekeeping at work as well as where they work are more engaged, work longer hours and are more productive,” says Bill Alexander.

“Give staff freedom to switch from office tasks to personal time and it will have a motivating impact on a workforce.” 

Recommendations for employers to improve employee engagement:

•   Allow your staff to work from home.

•   Give staff the flexibility to come into work early/late and leave early/late.

•   Give internet access and allow the use of social media.

•   Dont chastise employees for doing personal tasks such as booking holidays – a break every now and then will allow them to work longer.

•   Give staff a working environment where they can chat to colleagues.

The 2015 What’s killing UK productivity survey also found that just a third of British employees are highly engaged at work, while 50 per cent were moderately engaged and 15 per cent had no or low engagement.