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UK workers are tired, undertrained and mismanaged — and productivity is suffering

·3-min read
Young businessman working late in office looking stressed. Male professional feeling tired while working on laptop in modern office.
Stress is now thought to be behind almost half the number of working days lost in the UK due to health issues, according to a report. (Getty)

The last decade has seen the lowest levels of productivity in the UK workforce since the 1800s, a new report has estimated.

Productivity growth experienced a significant slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis despite UK workers putting in the hours — a third of Brits often exceed the EU’s maximum working limit, working over 48 hours a week, according to figures seen exclusively by Yahoo Finance UK.

Chartered accountants Theta Financial Reporting surveyed over 2000 UK adults to create The Productivity Index 2020 which assess what can be done to improve productivity and compete at an international level.

The survey found that UK employees are failing to achieve optimum productivity due to a lack of training, poor management, and vast workloads.

Read more: Poor mental health costs UK employers £45bn a year

Presenteeism is making 39% of Brits feel that they are less productive at work. Presenteeism is where an employee comes into work when they are unwell, thereby having a negative impact on business productivity, quality of work, and quantity of output.

Chris Biggs, managing director of accountancy consultants Theta Financial Reporting said: “Presenteeism is meaning that as a country, we are spending more time at work but aren’t achieving any more. This is a worrying trend and more needs to be done by managers, business leaders and human resource managers to make their employees more comfortable at work.”

Management and training is an issue for UK workers as 26% feel that they have not received the training needed to do their job efficiently and 51% believe that their managers lack awareness of what needs to be done to ensure the efficiency and productivity of their teams.

One in four Brits believe that their commute means that they are exhausted before they even get to work and 37% of workers do not have the time or motivation to chase promotions or professional development due to the overwhelming amount of work they have to do.

Read more: Three quarters of Brits say work is damaging their mental health

An “always on” culture in the workplace is having a negative impact on mental health as 45% of employees feel that work laptops and mobile phones mean they never truly switch off and have answered emails in the middle of the night.

Recent analysis by Deloitte found that employees’ poor mental health is costing UK employers up to £45bn ($59bn) per year in absenteeism, staff turnover and productivity issues — a 16% rise from two years ago.

One in six workers will experience a mental health problem at any one time, according to the report which was created in conjunction with mental health charity Mind.

Stress is now thought to be behind almost half the number of working days lost in the UK due to health issues, the report found.

Read more: UK employers see rise in 'presenteeism' in the workplace

As the UK moves forward post-Brexit with a new immigration policy that could have ramifications for the UK workforce, the competitiveness and productivity of UK workers could be closely watched as they look to compete on the international stage.

The productivity of American workers increased in 2019 at the fastest annual pace in nine years, according to a recent report, bouncing back with a 1.4% increase in the fourth quarter after a slight drop in the autumn.

“Brits are spending longer at work than any other workers in Europe and while our country’s time in the office is increasing, our country’s productivity has stalled,” Biggs said.

“When employees are less productive, they are wasting their own time and inevitably, impacting their mental health and perception of work. This can have dire consequences for employees and the wider economy as people leave jobs more frequently and the talent pool shrinks.

“As we are overcoming challenges such as Brexit, we need to, as business leaders, learn the lessons from the report quickly to secure the next generation of professional service executives and keep them in employment and happy.”

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