How does our productivity match up to the hours we work?

Have you ever stopped to think about how many extra hours you spend in the office finishing off vital pieces of work each week? And have you ever wondered whether you could be more productive in the day to reduce your working hours?

If you’re a Brit, the answer is likely to be yes, because compared with workers in the rest of the EU we spend two and a half weeks more per year working than our counterparts in the EU. Research shows that, on average, we work 42 hours every week.


Naturally, you’d assume that this means staff in the UK are the most productive in Europe, but actually the same research found the opposite. In fact, the ‘long-hours’ culture which seems to be so prevalent in the UK could actually be to blame for our supposed lack of productivity compared to other EU countries. Take Denmark, for example, where workers put in four hours less than UK employees each week but retain a productivity rate which is 23.5% higher.

The negative impacts of working long hours

Did you know that almost one in seven small businesses have been unable to pay employees, and over a third with cash flow issues have been unable to pay debts?

Keeping on top of your business finances is vital, and making sure you monitor your bank account weekly is really important. In fact, the more often, the better! This allows you to pick up on any unusual, potentially fraudulent behaviour, and to regulate spending, helping to manage cash flow.

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The structure of the working day

The working day, and more specifically the structure of it, is closely related to employee productivity. The eight-hour day – five days a week – schedule that most organisations subscribe to could be considered to be a faulty model. Some studies even suggest that staff are only fully focused for three of those eight hours.

How to improve productivity in the workplace

Tackling the poor ratio between productivity and hours worked is vital if a business wants to make the most of its resources. One way to combat the issue might be to offer a shorter day in the office, which in turn would encourage employees to prioritise tasks more effectively and limit distractions.

The health benefits also noted in reducing hours worked can be seen in the fewer number of sick days taken by those who work shorter hours. Healthier employees will have more energy and be more alert at work, leading to increased levels of motivation and productivity. Healthy workers equal happy workers, and all of this lends itself to having an engaged and productive workforce.

Typically, the longer that an employee has to complete a task, the more they procrastinate. Shortening the number of hours spent in the office could have a positive impact on staff efficiency, and also give individuals more time to spend with friends and family. Giving an employee the opportunity to engage in other activities and hobbies they enjoy, and therefore improving their mental state, is a vital part of helping improve productivity for everyone in the organisation.

Another way to help improve productivity in the office is to listen to music. There are a lot of different ways that listening to music can improve productivity at work, depending on the tasks you’re carrying out. If you’re working on clear, repetitive tasks, for example, music can make mundane jobs that little bit more enjoyable as hearing your favourite music has been proven to reduce negative moods and anxiety. To find out more about the different ways in which music can impact productivity, check out this blog post.

It’s not only the number of hours we work that have an effect on our productivity, though, our work environment also has an impact. From bright lighting to having plants in the office, everything makes a difference. Find out more about how to boost your productivity and make the most of your working environment here.

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