Don’t believe all the City doom and gloom, it’s a lot easier to turn productivity around than you think.
Oh sure, UK productivity lags behind the major economies.
But there’s a reason for our stunted performance – a penalty we all pay without realising it.
Because it’s not that we’re less productive. More that we’re not actually productive ALL of the time. Far from it.
In fact, without our knowledge, something is holding us back for almost three working months every year. 57.5 days on average.
The price we pay in lost productivity by coming to work unwell.
And right there is the shortfall.
Lowest productivity in Europe
For every 12 months of salary paid out, the best we Brits can deliver most of the time is only 9 months worth of work at full capability.
In the missing 3 months we’re gobbling down tablets to ease crippling back ache or muscle pain. Trying to ignore the near-fever of flu or norovirus that turns our guts to jelly and our minds to boiled knitting. Or grappling with monsters of worry or dread, sometimes bursting into tears with the stress of it all – men as well as women.
“Presenteeism” the HR people call it. When we’re smitten with unwellness that saps our skills and ability to think – but no so bad that we have to take time off for it.
Or perhaps we’re so worried about job security, we come to work anyway. Not wanting to get fired, feeling like death, with a dread of being found wanting.
Three months of the year, we’re like that.
Every one of us, the top brass too.
At work and battling with some kind of physical or mental issue every three days or so.
Think of how an ordinary cold drags on for days and weeks. Hardly worth pulling a sickie, but slowing us down in ways that could unknowingly hurt our job. Like staying fully focused when attention to detail is critical – reviewing figures for a bid, or brainstorming a new strategy – and then getting them wrong.
Same thing with mental challenges – a death in the family or worrying about finances. We’re not actually ill, but emotional and psychological pressures can drive us into it. Giving ourselves ulcers is all too familiar – so is the lost feeling at the edge of a breakdown.
Because we’re not machines, we’re human. Our lives go up and down – happy times, tragedies, unexpected illnesses, accidents – and just to be at our desks can be an effort, let alone deliver 100%.
Which is why on balance, most of us are only capable of 75%.
Low productivity: the antidote
So how do we turn it around?
Not by grabbing for the latest business must-have. Even with the latest technology, our own performance would still be less than we’d like. 75% of the advanced version is still only 75%.
Better deal with the issues that stunted us in the first place. If we really want to turn productivity around, delivering 100% of ourselves has got to be the goal.
Start with the quick fix, clobbering whatever it is that make us ill.
Germs, of course – a no-brainer.
We can’t see germs, they’re too microscopically small. So we don’t even think of them.
Reality is that they’re around us all the time, we’re even half bacteria ourselves. On top of which, every one of us carries our own personal germ cloud floating in the air around us – our own bio-signature, as unique as a fingerprint or retina scan.
And, wait for it.
Unhealthy = unproductive
Nowhere is probably more laden with germs than our own workplace.
Just lift your keyboard and look underneath. All those dust bunnies and detritus are the things we CAN see – so just imagine the germs that we can’t.
A few gruesome facts:
- The average desk has over 10 million unseen bacteria – 400 times more than a toilet.
- A typical keyboard may have 7,500 organisms hiding on it.
- Only one in five of us ever cleans our desk before eating.
- At least two in three of us always eat lunch there.
It gets worse, a legacy of the fact that we can’t see germs, so our personal hygiene gets really scary:
- 62% of men and 40% of women NEVER wash their hands after going to the toilet.
- 95% of people don’t even wash their hands properly.
- Only 12% of people wash their hands before eating.
You get the picture. No matter how clean and tidy your workplace might be, chances are inevitable it’s crawling with germs. An increasing aggregate of germs too. If the place has never been treated, it’s likely bacteria, viruses and fungi have been breeding there since the year dot.
An investment in efficiency
This is where the £30 comes in. The business end of how you turn productivity around. And probably not much more than you’re already paying for your daily cleaning service.
That’s all it takes to get yourself a whole health protection system to eliminate all germs. And you read that right – ALL GERMS.
Cutting to the chase, your £30 a day buys you the whole kit and caboodle to do it. Germ-killing biocide, dispersing machine, accessories, training to use it, finance to acquire it – and the only insurance policy of its kind in the world to cover your use of it.
You put the machine into action every night when your team are gone. When it releases an ultra fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that reaches everywhere and oxidises all germs to oblivion. To a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.
OK, so you can’t protect your team from picking up germs outside.
But in the workplace – the space they all share, work in, move around in, breathe in and generate money in – the entire surroundings are sterile. No germs to catch, no illness to succumb to, no under-performing at 75%. Your team feel healthy and good with it, the first step to turn productivity around.
So what has it brought you?
More bang for your buck in the salaries that you pay people. Still the same wages, but more of your money’s worth. Closer to full power performance.
And time, of course.
Time to fix stress
Un-stunted by illness, the same people can do their jobs better, faster, with fewer delays.
Which gives you time to apply in your next step to turn productivity around, alleviating stress.
Let’s face it, if any of your team were your son or daughter, you would be sympathetic to the pressures they were under – and indulgent with how you handled them. Feelings are sensitive things, and can make or break the strongest relationships.
Hold that thought.
Because your team are human, just like your kids are. They need sympathy and indulgence too – or better still, compassion. If you value them, they need to know they are not machines.
So you give them time. And you can afford to.
You’ve just won a whole load back by getting rid of germs, now spend it wisely to de-stress your team.
Come to that, it’s time that can de-stress a lot of things.
The always-on black hole
Take the accepted Twenty-First Century culture we have drifted into of always-on involvement. A stress-maker if ever there was one. Team members feeling pressured that they never get time to disengage. On edge always to check their emails far into the evening and weekends.
And only a skip from there, working hours late at the office like everybody else. Having to prove commitment over and over again. No wonder they get sleepless nights. And no wonder their energy flags when they’re back on deck in the morning.
So yes, time.
Take a walk round the office at 5.30 and see who’s there. Ask what’s wrong and how you can help.
Well there must be something wrong if they’re still there after hours. Isn’t the work designed to be accomplished in the time allocated? So what glitch has happened to make them work late?
Besides, your team need their own time to recharge and revitalise for you. To go home and engage with their own lives, so they’re ready, fresh and motivated for you in the morning. Likewise weekends and public holidays. Make them take them, it’s to your advantage and takes the pressure away.
People versus people
Then there’s other issues.
Relationships to sort out – people being side-lined by cliques, disagreements with a line manager’s protégé, defusing favouritism, even coping with bullying.
Yes, they all take time to discuss and resolve. But time is a substance you can afford with healthier staff – and it’s not the work that’s important, it’s the people who enable it to happen successfully. People issues SHOULD come first.
So you CAN take time out to consult and discuss. You CAN afford to listen. You CAN take time to show that you care, that you value your people and WANT them to work for you. Just as, by handling them right, you persuade them that they WANT to work for you. And how much stress could that ease?
You may not come to work every morning on the 7.25 to Waterloo. But it would be useful if you did.
Jammed in tight as always, you’re surrounded by shapes with the saddest body language in the country. Sagging, tired and exhausted before they’ve even started, there’s no motivation, these are people who resent going to work.
They are angry, bitter, scared, brow-beaten, already impatient for the day to be over. Nobody has invested enough time in their aspirations to make them WANT to be there. What stress will they go through? What will they do to compensate?
Some will pull sickies. Some will get drunk every night. All of them will clock-watch. All of them will be so stressed they’ll moan like a drain to anyone who will listen.
With good reason. Nobody TOOK THE TIME to show they cared.
Like son and daughter
There’s more you can do with time too – like you would with your son or daughter.
Allow team members time off when they DO feel ill, poor work could be more damaging than none. Time off too when other issues crowd out their ability to concentrate. To see the bank about a loan, get a pregnancy check, sort out child care, go to a funeral, or get ready for a wedding. You care, they pay it back – in effort.
Time is the pressure that stampedes stress, but with a healthy team you’ve got plenty of it. Fewer absences at home, fewer absences staring at their desks– and anyway productivity is up, so reinvesting time can only pay dividends.
Which works for the people in pain too – the ones with the killer back aches or the foot they can barely walk on. But they’re yours, and they’re good, and you need to show that you value them.
So give them time like they’re most important people in the world. Which they are – human assets working for you. Give them time to get down the corridor to the conference room, time to see the specialist, time for their physiotherapy. To turn productivity around, it’s worth it.
Getting your money’s worth
All of which is a lot for your £30 a day. And a lot cheaper than the next generation IT system you might have been considering. Or the wellness package you might have considered as a bribe – gym membership, medical consultancy, keep fit classes, stop smoking clinics…
Why pay extra for them to do their job? Will they do it any better? And wouldn’t they rather have a raise anyway?
Need further convincing?
Can any business afford to keep making losses like that? For £30 a day, you don’t have to.
OK, so go to it.
Turn productivity around.