Today’s post is courtesy of Claire Richardson, director of the Workforce Institute Europe.

U.K. workers are not delivering – at least compared to their European counterparts. They are simply less productive at work: Brits spend more work time on social media, take more work home with them, and sleep fewer hours than the leading European nations according to new research from the Workforce Institute Europe at Kronos Incorporated. The study of more than 3,000 full-time workers across Germany, France, and the U.K. found that this trend is poised to continue, with younger generations less able to regulate their working lives in the face of new technology and changing working practices.

The research shows significant differences in the way U.K., German, and French workers operate, and a close correlation between an Always On relationship with technology and lower productivity. To halt the consistent decline in U.K. productivity, all industries need to take a close look at the way we work with technology and develop a tailored and flexible strategy that helps our workers balance work and life according to how they work best. Technology has a key role to play in improving productivity, and our role as employers is to provide the workforce with the skills they need to become empowered, not less productive, by technology. The Workforce Institute Europe will continue to collaborate with experts in this field to set the agenda for the workplace of the future.

Research Highlights:

  • The Procrastination Nation: U.K. workers spend the least amount of time actually working whilst at work. A mere 46 percent of U.K. employees say they put in more than seven hours of work a day, while more than a quarter (27 percent) complete less than five hours of work a day.
    • Meanwhile, 63 percent of French workers and 67 percent of German workers put in more than seven solid hours a day concentrating on work in the office, while one in five (21 percent) of German and French workers complete less than five hours a day.
    • This trend looks set to continue, as one in five (21 percent) of U.K. 16-25 year olds complete 7-8 hours of “work related activity” in their working day, well below the national average of 35 percent – a ticking time-bomb for future U.K. productivity.
  • The Social Distraction: The failure to effectively utilise the latest technology in the workplace plays a major role in making workers less productive, with social media revealed as being the biggest distraction for the youngest segment of the British Workforce.
    • Not only are U.K. workers the most active at home (89 percent), but also at work, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of workers under 24 admitting to using their personal social media accounts for more than 30 minutes a day at work, compared to 50 percent and 42 percent for Germany and France respectively.
    • This impact on productivity at work is further reflected in the wider British workforce, with more than one-third (35 percent) claiming they are often distracted by technology at work, while in Germany this applies to less than a quarter (24 percent) of the workforce.
    • K. employees aged 16-24 are keen to adopt new technology sooner (51 percent) rather than later (19 percent), diverting their attention to this rather than focusing on day-to-day productivity. Those over 55 are more likely to behave in the opposite way, waiting until the technology is proven (50 percent) as opposed to being an early adopter (11 percent).
  • Always-on Con? While U.K. workers are both more distracted and take longer breaks during the day – one-third take more than the mandated hour per day – they are also more likely to take their work home with them. The vast majority (81 percent) of U.K. workers use their own devices to work outside the office, making it difficult to switch off the work button when at home or on holiday, and blurring the boundaries between work and rest. Brits are also the most likely, compared to their French and German counterparts, to work at home (73 percent, 63 percent, 70 percent respectively).
    • The worst offenders are the younger generation, who are most likely to be “always on” with four in every five (87 percent) of 16-25 year olds bringing their work home with them. Older respondents in our survey appear better at prioritising work and maintaining work-life balance, with 38 percent of workers over 45 claiming to not do any work activity at home.
  • The Working Dead: Getting adequate rest is integral to maintaining a productive and positive attitude at work, but the “Always On” culture, is impacting how U.K. workers do this. Half (50 percent) of British workers regularly get less than six hours sleep – two hours less than the National Institute of Health’s recommended amount. One in five (20 percent) regularly get as little as four hours every night.
    • More than a quarter of U.K. workers under 24 years old (28 percent) have been woken by a work email or text, considerably more than France (10 percent) and Germany (15 percent)
    • The majority of U.K. workers under 24 years old (53 percent) sleep less than six hours a night, while most workers aged 55 and older (58 percent) get more than eight hours of sleep on a regular basis.
    • In Germany on the other hand it is the minority (40 percent) of workers under 24 years old that aren’t getting adequate sleep. It is a similar story in France, where more than two-thirds (68 percent) get at least seven hours sleep a night.

One thought on “German and French Workers Consistently Outperforming Brits at Work

  1. Thank you Claire! Great article – highly thought provoking!

    We live in very exciting times, and yet, we still have many new challenges ahead – especially related to how technology is used in our life, at work or away from work, and for some, a large part of our day regardless of our location. Even though we often contemplate how to leverage technology to be more productive while at work (and not at work), this research shows some very interesting facts which help show that while technology “can” facilitate more productivity, that outcome is dependent on more than just great technology. It will be very interesting to see where we are at in 3 to 5 years regarding the “always on” debate, and how things have evolved in the U.K. for workers.

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