UK faces ‘productivity collapse’ as remote workers admit they do less — and get away with it

BRITAIN’S economy is on the brink of a productivity collapse, with homebound workers admitting they get away with an average of two hours and 20 minutes less work each day.

The findings come from a study conducted by Mind Gym, a behavioural science-based consulting firm that works with companies including Unilever, Microsoft, Audi and GlaxoSmithKline.

More than a third of the workers canvassed said they felt less motivated while working from home. A similar proportion admit to being less productive, and nearly half of all respondents reported doing an average of two hours, 20 minutes less work — without their managers noticing.

Half of respondents claim their manager has had no impact whatever on their performance during remote working, while almost a fifth think managers have had a negative impact. One in four workers feels either a “clear lack of guidance” or is “bored”, while one in five has no idea what is going on within their immediate team on a day-to-day basis. A quarter of workers report feeling “tired and exhausted”, with many suffering from loneliness.

The study was conducted with more than 2,000 respondents — all of whom are employed and working from home (not on furlough or serving notice) — and highlights the need for stronger leadership and management, says Mind Gym.

According to recent ONS statistics, the average UK working week consists of 36.5 hours. Based on a five-day working week, that two hours and 20 minutes less work each day equates to a catastrophic 30 percent weekly drop in productivity.

Behavioural science expert Octavius Black, co-founder and CEO of Mind Gym, said anxiety from lockdown and the ineffectiveness of managers in a new environment was leading to “opt-out or burnout”.

“The way to prevent this crisis is not to stop remote working,” he says, “which — when properly handled — can bring benefits, but for leaders to step-up and develop the managerial muscle needed to lead effectively.”

Those taking steps to address the problem will safeguard their teams and businesses, he predicts. “The rest won’t realise the damage until it is too late to recover.”

The top priority for businesses, he believes, is to support managers. Remote working is likely to be prevalent for most sectors for the foreseeable future, and may become permanent for many. Failure to address the productivity drop is “an existential threat for businesses large and small”.

Respondents in the 45-54 age demographic have felt the biggest decline in motivation (43.8 percent), directly corresponding with those in director roles (44.4 percent).

A third of respondents report struggling with the blurred line between home and work life.