We might have all thought it, but ADP Research confirmed last year that UK employees work approximately 14 days longer than many EU countries over a year. That equates to 6.3 hours a week on average of work without pay, or £5,000 of employees’ time per annum.  No wonder the UK was named the, “Unpaid overtime capital of Europe.”

However, do these extra hours mean that the UK is more productive?  Well, according to ADP’s 2019 survey, no, it doesn’t.

ADP, providers of HR software, surveyed 1,400 employees and found that two-thirds of employees work longer hours regultarly, with a fifth working a minimum of an extra 10 hours a week. This is far greater than other countries in Europe, Germany is 10% and France is 12% of employees.

TUC analysis found that in Denmark, full time workers are 23.5% more productive per hour than UK employees, and they work fewer hours in a week! Even our neighbours in Ireland work fewer hours per week and yet are 62.8% more productive.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, explained: “Britain’s long hours’ culture is nothing to be proud of.  It’s robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones.  Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.” He added, “It’s time for a change. Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn’t only good for workers, it can boost productivity.  As new technology changes our economy, the benefits should be shared by working people. That means shorter hours, more time with family and friends, and decent pay for everyone.”

So, how can employees in the UK turn around these statistics, especially following Brexit, and become more productive at work?

Get exercising before work

Whilst we may not want to get up earlier, it is worth it.  Making the most of that first hour of the day sets the tone and has an impact on your productivity levels.

Studies have shown that exercising before work not only boosts your metabolism, you will have more energy, your brain will be more active, lowers stress levels and puts you in a better mood.  Plus it’s a massive health benefit.

Design and organise your workspace

How your workspace around you is designed and organised has an impact on how productive you are.  Consider where you are located in relation to colleagues, equipment such as photocopiers and printers, as well as temperature and lighting.  Carlo Ratti, Italian architect and MIT Senseable City Lab director, recently used Internet of Things (IoT) technology to allow workers to tailor their workspace according to their needs when renovating the headquarters of the Agnelli Foundation.

Despina Katsikakis, who is an expert on the way workspace design impacts performance and is working on the enormous skyscraper being built at 22 Bishopsgate, London, says: “The majority of office design focuses on reducing the cost of the space rather than inspiring people to do better work.”

Get ‘task smart’

Once it was ‘multitasking’; now it’s ‘one-tasking’.  Trying to split yourself across several different tasks at the same time is distracting and makes you less productive. Focus 100% of your time on one task at a time.

However, limit the amount of time you spend on that task and stick to it, within reason.  It’s also wise to get the more complicated, harder tasks done first when you are more alert, then you’ll feel a great sense of achievement when they’re completed! Breaking up your day into batches of tasks not only helps you focus but also enables you to get through your daily to-do list.

Take regular short breaks

Sitting at your desk staring at a computer screen for hours on end is not only debilitating, but it’s also unhealthy.  We’ve all experienced excessive tiredness, yawning and sore, itchy eyes from not taking regular breaks from our desks.

Take just 10 minutes away from your desk to stand up, walk around and stretch.  Get some fresh air to wake you up, put you in a better mood, and improve your concentration levels.

O2 Business, in collaboration with Development Economics and YouGov, surveyed 500 UK businesses with regards to connectivity and discovered that employees could potentially gain 3.14 hours a week – that’s almost 18 working days per year – due to better connectivity.

Their Business without Boundaries: the Role of Connectivity in Business Growth report stated with employees having more flexibility to work when, where and how they wish could, “Reduce time spent commuting to fixed places of work, enabling a more efficient use of working time.”

As employees make use of technology advancements, the workplace culture is changing, enabling workers to become more productive, and happier. It’s not a case of working harder; it’s working smarter.