According to a recent report by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, productivity has fallen again in 2017 and, despite some small increase here and there, remains below 2007 levels (i.e. before the global financial crisis).
That doesn't sound good, but what does it mean for the average business person? Why is it concerning? Most importantly, what can we do about it?
Fear not, all of these questions are about to be answered.
What is productivity?
It is the amount of work produced per employee or per working hour. For example, if a barista could make 30 cups of coffee in an hour, their coffee-making productivity would be 30 coffees per hour.
In terms of the whole economy, productivity is GDP (the value of all goods and services) divided by hours worked (by all workers across the nation).
What’s been happening?
Between the end of WW2 until 2007, productivity was growing at a rate of 2 percent per year but since then it has stood still.
Currently, the UK’s productivity level is no higher than it was in 2007, which is an unprecedented period of stagnation.
Does it matter?
Simply, yes. A growth in productivity reflects the amount that we as a country are producing efficiently.
Rising productivity allows workers to be paid more for their efforts without risking an inflationary spiral (where inflation spirals out of control i.e. 1920s Germany, 1990s Argentina). Given the difficulty in raising wages, it is understandable (although still frustrating) that the average wage is still less than a decade ago.
As wages have stagnated, more people rely on public services, which results in higher taxes or the cutting of social programmes.
Raising our productivity
It would be difficult to address how we, as individuals, can raise productivity across the country as a whole. That requires the government, industry leaders, and economists to work together on a sustainable plan; although economic theory and experiential evidence suggests investing in research, infrastructure, technology, and education as well as increasing trade and immigration can help.
However, there are many things that individual businesses and employees can do to raise productivity through better management practices and increased organisation. It won't change the economy on its own but every little bit helps.
Even though you won't be able to see massive global changes, you will see changes in your own work and that of those around you. You might see wages in your company rise as a result or be able to negotiate a raise for yourself.
Here are some little tips that you can implement in order to see real improvement in your productivity.
Work fewer hours
If you think that you need to be the first in and the last out in order to maximise your productivity, then feel free to clock out on time tonight. Humans are not machines and they need rest breaks.
Up to a point (roughly 49 hours per week), your output is proportional to time worked. Then it begins to decrease steadily. Essentially those who work 70 hours a week have the same productivity as people who work 56 hours.
Invest in project planning software
Project planning software, like that offered by Timewax, will help you better organise your working day by keeping you on top of projects and to a schedule. One of the key benefits of project planning software is that it allows you to see how a project is doing with just one click.
Turn your phone off
You might believe that you are ignoring it but every little vibration, sound, and light will be distracting you on a subconscious level and getting less done as a result.
If you're worried about missing something that really is urgent, then give your work number to your close family and your child’s school/babysitter so they can still contact you in an emergency.
What do you think of the productivity rate? Will it right itself in time or is it something that we should be concerned about? What other productivity tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below.