Do working hours make a difference to your productivity?
As the chancellor Phillip Hammond outlined in his autumn statement, in November 2016, UK productivity is still significantly lower than that of our American and European counterparts. This is despite two thirds of employees now working longer hours. While the reasons for this discrepancy are complex, one thing is clear: as well as supporting wider macro interventions, we must look to the workplace to find new solutions.
As initiatives in Sweden have shown, it pays to consider alternatives to the traditional way of working. Toyota centres in Gothenburg for example, have been working to a six-hour day since 2003 and have subsequently experienced lower staff turnover and an increase in productivity.
Academic studies have also shown that the way the workplace is managed and organised can have a dramatic effect on productivity. In fact, even small changes can have an impact on business performance.
"Any attempt to re-balance the economy or develop an industrial strategy without taking into account the workplace will almost certainly end in failure" (Sisson, 2014)
- The UK workforce produces less per hour than our main economic competitors, Germany, France and the US.
- Since the onset of the 2007-2008 financial crisis labour productivity in the United Kingdom overall has been exceptionally weak.
- In 2013, UK productivity was an estimated 17 per cent lower than the G7 average.
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While no single employer can solve the UK's productivity puzzle, there are simple steps any business can take to improve their productivity. Our productivity tool allows employers to identify the seven most common levers of workplace productivity and take steps to improve areas of weakness. This practical tool highlights the importance of the following:
- Well designed work that increases efficiency and makes the most of people's skills
- Skilled line managers with the confidence and training to manage and lead effectively
- Managing conflict effectively toreduce the likelihood of problems and resolve issues at every stage
- Clarity and transparency createsa working environment where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities
- Fairness makes employees feel valued
- A strong employee voice encourages informed employees to contribute
- High trust relationships help employers to share information at the earliest opportunity.
In creating this tool, we have used our experience of handling over 9 million workplace interactions per year, to bring employers a unique insight into modern working life and practical steps to help them improve in each of the seven key areas.
- Ensure every task is well designed
Be clear about the value of people when it comes to designing jobs and organising work as a whole, ensure each role is clearly defined, and encourage employees to innovate and develop their skills.
- Give managers the skills to manage
Line managers need the skills and confidence to manage workplace policies and procedures and introduce organisational change. Training in these areas is key for all management staff.
- Manage conflict effectively
All businesses needsystems in place to reduce the likelihood of problems and resolve conflicts and grievances quickly.
- Be clear about rights and responsibilities
It's important to create an environment in which everyone understands their rights and responsibilities, policies are openly communicated and everyone has easy access to information.
- Treat everyone fairly
Employees who are treated fairly are more likely to feel valued. This involves promoting a culture that welcomes diversity, tackles discrimination and promotes pay equality.
- Give employees a strong voice
Making employees feel involved is essential to creating a productive workplace. This means involving individuals in everyday decision-making and consultations and encouraging regular feedback.
- Earn employees trust
Building strong working relationships with employees and keeping them in the loop about changes, builds trust, encourages feedback and allows employers to benefit from staff ideas and insight.