British workers outperformed by European powerhouses

German and French workers consistently outperforming Brits as poor work habits and struggling millennials causing a looming crisis for the UK.


The Workforce Institute Europe has today launched a study revealing why the UK workforce is less productive than their European counterparts. British workers consistently underperform in almost every aspect in the workplace – they are less productive at work, spend more work time on social media, work more often at home and sleep fewer hours than the leading European nations.



The study of over 3,000 full-time workers across Germany, France and the UK also found there is no end in sight for this productivity gap as younger generations are less able to work effectively with new technology and changing working practices. They are quicker to adopt new technology, but less able to make it a productive tool in their working lives.

The Workforce Institute Europe is an industry body made up of HR experts and industry specialists, brought together to discuss the key issues that hinder performance in companies and industries across Europe.

Their study found that UK workers spend the least amount of time actually working whilst at work. Less than half (46 percent) of UK workers work more than seven hours a day, while 63 percent of their French, and 67 percent of their German, counterparts work for more than seven hours of their working day. While this lapse in productivity is worrying enough, this trend looks set to continue.

Only one in five (21 percent) of UK 16-25 year olds complete 7-8 hours of “work related activity” in their working day, well below the national average of 35 percent. With more than a quarter (26 percent) of all UK workers working for only around 5 hours a day, there is a clear productivity gap.


The Procrastination Nation

Social Media has the most damaging impact on the productivity of the youngest British workers.

Not only are they the most active users at home (89 percent), but also at work, nearly two thirds (64 percent) of workers under the age of 24 admitting to using their personal social media accounts for more than 30 minutes a day at work. This casual attitude to productivity at work is further reflected by the rest of the British workforce, with more than a third (35 percent) claiming they are distracted by technology at work, while in Germany this applies to less than a quarter (24 percent) of the workforce.

Other potential contributing factors to this productivity spiral is that British workers are less able to set boundaries between their work and home life. They are the most likely to use work apps on their personal devices (81 percent) and they also work from home more often, compared to France and Germany (73 percent, 63 percent, 70 percent respectively).

The worst affected are younger workers, 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. More experienced workers maintaining a better work-life balance, with 38 percent of those over 45 years of age doing absolutely no work activity at home.


The Working Dead

Perhaps as a consequence of this “Always On” lifestyle, the sleep of a large proportion of UK workers is being impacted, which in turn increases the potential for physical and mental fatigue.

More than a quarter of UK workers under 24 years old (28 percent) have been woken by a work email or text, considerably more than in France (10 percent) and Germany (15 percent)

Also, the majority of UK workers under 24 years old (53 percent) sleep less than six hours a night, while most workers aged 55 and older (58 percent) get over 8 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, with over two-thirds (68 percent) getting at least 7 hours sleep a night.

Getting adequate rest is integral for maintaining a productive and positive attitude at work. The study found that this extends to the wider workforce, with 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 4 hours every night.


Claire Richardson, Chair, Workforce Institute Europe commented on the findings:


“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.”


In addition to this, Bruce Daisly, EMEA VP, Twitter had the following to say:


“While it’s easy to ignore the problem if productivity is growing, the difference between the performance of the U.K. and other countries compels us to think differently. To suggest a sweeping overhaul of the way we work is never the right approach in business. It’s about small changes, turning off the unread badges on your mobile phone’s email icon for example. If everyone makes a small positive change they all add up on aggregate and it can make a big difference.”


Research Methodology

The “Always on Con Report” asked more than 3,000 full-time workers across U.K., Germany and France about their habits in the workplace, their use of and relationship with technology (workplace and consumer), the frequency of their breaks at work, their sleeping habits and wellbeing. The survey was conducted between 1 October 2017 and 10 October 2017 by independent third-party research firm Censuswide.

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