Articles 3 min read

World Productivity Day: Here’s why your workforce isn’t working

Ever feel like you’re so busy that you can’t get anything actually done?

Think about it. Employees today are in and out of meetings often; constantly having to respond to emails; regularly swapping between different platforms and tools; and working on tens of tasks, activities and projects.

At the end of the week, what outputs do they have to show for their time? Is it less than they think, despite feeling shattered at the end of the week?

That’s exactly the position many teams are in today.

As HR and People leaders it’s also probably something we’re overly familiar with too. Hands up who feels like they’re caught up in the day to day requests, instead of those strategic initiatives which have been on your desk longer than you’d hope or like…

We asked 3,500 employees about productivity

Our research, ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’, set out to look at just that: what really gets your workforce productive?

We found that over a third of employees admitted they’re productive for less than 30 hours a week. That’s a whole day each week that they’re in work, but not working.

In the US alone, a staggering $450-$550 billion a year is lost because of poor employee productivity.

For HR and People teams, getting your workforce productive is becoming an increasing challenge – and a bigger priority for senior leaders than ever before.

Here’s what doesn’t get them working

Free food. Beer fridges. Ping-pong tables. Beanbags. Company outings. These are the things employees explicitly said in our research make them unproductive at work.

It’s ironic a lot of these things are those which companies believe to be vital in attracting and keeping top talent.

Yet, a staggering 40% of companies we polled think benefits and games in the office are important to employees.

Ultimately, employees don’t value them as much as employers think. Just because there’s a ping-pong table in the office, it doesn’t mean employees are more engaged.

The good news is that research does demonstrate some clear trends around what really drives employees at work and gets them productive.

Create a culture of working fewer hours

Despite people spending longer at work, we’re not getting more done. Overworking isn’t solving the global productivity crisis.

As productivity continues to dip, the hours we work are creeping up. A recent Stanford Study has found that we can actually get more done by working less.

It found that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, it’s the law of diminishing returns where productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless.

Creating a culture where people don’t feel they have to be seen putting in long hours to progress up the career ladder may create happier, more engaged and more efficient employees.

Encourage flexible working

Working 9-5? What a way to make a living, and probably not a in a good way when it comes to a productive workforce.

It’s a rarity nowadays, with just 6% of the UK workforce working these hours, whether it’s family needs, personal obligations, or simply to avoid rush hour.

In fact, it’s so important to people that when we asked in our research, an astounding 80% of people placed importance and value on flexible working.

Allowing employees flexibility and trusting them to manage their own working hours around their personal commitments goes a long way to a better work-life balance.

In doing so, businesses benefit by having happy and engaged employees in the workplace (wherever they may be), making them much more productive.

Show employees you value and recognize them

One of the biggest things employees we spoke to said they cared about was feeling valued in the workplace and being recognized for the work that they did. 66% of respondents said this was important.

Workers aren’t fussed about quirky benefits or company outings. They just want their employer to say: ‘great job’. They want to feel that their company values the contribution that they’re making to the business.

It’s quite simple really. How did you last feel someone thanked you for something you did?

Productive employees have meaningful workforce experiences

One of the starkest findings from our research was the fact that 78% of respondents we spoke to said that creating better experiences at work will drive them to be more productive.

This figure jumps to 92% for the younger generations; a demographic that will comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020.

Ultimately, employees don’t care about free food and company outings.

They expect to be able to take control of their working lives with technology in the same way as they manage their personal lives. They want to be able to book leave themselves, access company policies, sign up for training, or download their own pay slips.

They want to feel like their employer is listening to their views, and hearing what they’re saying.

That’s what employees told us in our research. Is it the same for employees in your workforce?

Want to build fantastic experiences for your people? Find out why your workforce isn’t working with our research from 3,500 employees.

The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Sage People.

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