Brits unproductive?

The UK is lagging behind on productivity

New Statesman

Why sleeplessness could be to blame for Britain's falling productivity

"If I sleep badly, I am less focused, my colleagues notice because I'm quieter, I can't bring myself to have long chats, and it impacts on my mood," says Rishi Patel, a 29-year-old political risk analyst from London and friend of this reporter, who feels his sleep has suffered over the last three or four years. He varies between five and eight hours on a good night, and often struggles to fall asleep.

"In a bad period of sleep, I'm feeling stressed at work because I'm so tired, I'm being unproductive and therefore I'm not working to my capacity.

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Does the UK have a particular problem with productivity?

By Joe Harker

Britain has a productivity problem, people aren't working as much in this country as they do abroad which hampers the economy.

There's a bit of a suspicion that this is a peculiarly British problem, that we are lazier than others with a particular affinity for skiving off or dossing about.

That's not strictly true. The issues with productivity are largely to do with how people work and what they have to work with, not about some nebulous national character.

The Claim:

This issue is in the news as the Office for National Statistics reported that UK productivity fell by the highest rate in five years from April to June of this year.

Productivity fell by 0.5 per cent after two previous quarters of zero growth, so essentially for the past nine months the average British worker has not been doing more work with their time and they are now doing sightly less.

Low productivity has long been one of the puzzles of the British economy, with productivity having flatlined since the recession. This isn't just a problem for the last few months, it's been an issue for the past decade.

Uncertainty in the economy is seen as a big reason behind poor productivity and one of the main issues is a lack of investment. In recent years this has been due to Brexit but previous uncertainty during the global economic downturn also played a part.

Investment means better training and better equipment for workers. A lack of investment means they get neither while workers in other countries with better investment get those things, thus meaning the UK falls behind in relative terms.

The Counter Claim:

It might be that us Brits are so damn tired all the time, maybe what we need is a good night's sleep.

There are many surveys which indicate Brits don't get the sleep they need, with a report from the University of Loughborough finding that three in four UK employees have persistent sleep problems and 54 per cent unable to keep awake through the day.

Someone who is struggling to stay awake at work is unlikely to be at their best, while a person suffering from persistent sleep problems is definitely going to struggle to give 100 per cent.

Brits take on average two sick days each year to catch up on lost sleep, while a quarter of those in the study explicity said their problems with sleep stopped them from carrying out the duties of their job.

A study into the economic effects of a lack of sleep found that a lack of sleep was costing the UK 1.86 per cent of GDP a year. If people got a proper night's sleep the UK could be £24.5 billion better off.

The Facts:

There are a number of suggestions on how to fix the productivity issues the UK have, including boosting the minimum wage and switching to a four day working week.

People's productivity also varies depending on what time of the week it is. 10 - 11 in the morning is the time of day people feel most productive, while Tuesday is the day people did best at work, followed by Monday and Wednesday.

Conversely the later the time of day and day of week it is the less productive a person is. People aren't doing their most efficient work on Friday afternoon, instead thinking about the weekend.

The time you go to sleep matters too, with workers advised to get to bed no later than 10:30pm as the longer a person sleeps beyond that the less productive they get.

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