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HR Has A Role In Solving The UK Productivity Puzzle

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A couple of years ago – pre. COVID19, the statistics regarding productivity in the UK did make good reading.

Reports have revealed that productivity in the UK had fallen to a two-year low on the back of Brexit concerns.

Labour productivity is a major factor in determining economic growth, and it wasn’t looking good for the UK. So much so that productivity has remained below average since 2007 and the Global Financial Crisis.


However, here’s some good news – productivity has improved by 2.6% between 2019 and 2021. Yes, it’s not by much, but it’s a step in the right direction and remote working may have played a positive part in it.

For Britain, it’s been a long way back from the crisis, and without playing the blame game, there are many causes for the poor economic performance including a lack of investment, poor use of capital, challenges with labour, Europe suffering too and of course Brexit uncertainty.

Unemployment has remained low; however, it’s not telling the real story, businesses are guilty of hoarding staff without the workload for them. They have been doing it in fear of not being able to hire the critical personnel again when activity bounces back. Many other ‘soft’ issues can be worked on, including:

  • Staff morale
  • Absenteeism
  • General work ethic in the UK

UK Work Ethic

Why is our work ethic on a decline? When you compare Britain to other G7 countries, our productivity falls behind.

If we want living standards to improve, the output per employee needs to increase, as these two elements are very closely aligned.

The good news is there have been small gains made particularly in the public sector, while manufacturing, construction,and mining have gone down.

When you dig deeper into the statistics, you will see it is our productivity per capita that is making us fall behind the likes of Germany, Italy, France, and the US. So, with that being said, what is causing this?

Let’s take a look at some suggestions from the ebook – how HR can help solve the productivity puzzle.

Stress-related absences

The first thing we need to address is the number of stress-related absences from work.

For the first time, work-related depression, anxiety, or stress now accounts for more than 50 percent of the working days lost because of poor health in Great Britain.

Businesses need to do more to help employees when it comes to mental health. This means tackling problems like toxic workplaces, bullying in the office, and excessive workloads. Issues like this are incredibly detrimental in terms of staff morale and productivity.

However, it’s highly likely remote working is helping remove a lot of the negative issues of the workplace hence the slight increase in overall productivity over the past couple of years.

Our meetings culture

Aside from an increasing number of working days lost because of stress, we also need to take a look at the ‘meetings culture’ here in Britain. If most business owners are honest, they will admit that their meetings are not as productive as they should be. There are many ways that this can be improved.

Many businesses are hosting way too many meetings and invite everyone when only those employees impacted by what is being discussed should attend. Having a set schedule could help with this problem.

Poor onboarding

The third and final challenge we may be suffering from is ineffective onboarding. Onboarding relates to new employees’ integration into an organisation. This is something that HR departments across the country need to focus on more. This process is highly inefficient at a lot of businesses.

Employees do not feel like they receive the correct training or assistance so they can settle in and help the business to move forward. Using onboarding software will improve the process including capturing feedback for improving the system for future hires.


As you can see, there are several different things that are contributing to the fact that we have low productivity levels per hour here in the UK. However, the public sector has seen gradual improvements that are sure to continue with more flexibility around remote working.

The private sector has some catching up to do and it is something that we are going to need to work on if we are going to catch up to the likes of the United States and France. Plus, if we do not make some changes, we are not going to be able to improve our living standards.