It’s common knowledge that the UK is suffering from a productivity gap. In recent years, there has been a deluge of figures to suggest that UK workers simply don’t deliver as much output as their overseas counterparts. In fact, this gap has become so acute that ex-chancellor Phillip Hammond even suggested that ‘it takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five’.
However, while on a macro-level the UK struggles with its efficiency, on a micro level, we all have bad habits that seem to kill our focus and results – wherever we are. So, here are five of the most common habits that kill productivity.
Habits that Kill Productivity - Multi-tasking
First on our list of habits that kill productivity is multitasking. While this may seem like something that actually boosts output, trying to do everything at once is just an indicator that you’re not prioritising enough. Instead of doing everything you think you need to do, take a step back and evaluate the two or three most important tasks you need to complete. This way you can direct more of your time, energy, and attention into completing those goals. In reality, only two percent of the population is good at juggling tasks.
The rest of us are up to 40% less productive when we regularly switch between activities. Frequently alternating between two different tasks requires a considerable amount of mental effort, leading to an increased amount of time spent working, and a decrease in quality. Focusing entirely on one task until it is completed is the best way for getting things done quickly.
A bad night’s sleep can kill productivity. In fact, this habit costs the UK economy a staggering £40.3 billion and 200,000 working days a year. There is a growing scientific consensus that insufficient sleep leads to a slowing of response speed, alertness,
attention, vigilance, perception, memory and executive functions. All of which might come in handy when it comes to productivity.
Not taking rests
Once again, while working as long and hard as physically possible may sound like the productive thing to do, there is a growing body of evidence stating that working too many hours actually leads to decreased output per hour.
In fact, productivity can drop to less than two-thirds when an individual works 60 hours a week as opposed to a standard 40 hours a week. Not taking breaks might give you more time to get things done, but it will also lower your efficiency and focus. Instead, use rest as a weapon, and alternate between fully focused periods of work, and short breaks.
Put your phone away.
Nomophobia, or mobile phone addiction, is everywhere. However, it’s a habit that is killing productivity. In fact, even if your phone is turned off and face down, having a mobile within sight reduces cognitive capacity by 10%.
According to Pew Research Centre, people aged 18-24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages a day – amounting to 3,200 texts per month, and roughly 30-40 messages during work. However, these can be disruptive even if these are not responded to – in fact the rate of errors made after hearing an alert is the same that is made when answering one. Therefore, for optimum focus – make sure your mobile is out of sight and out of mind.
Closely linked with phone addiction, excess use of social media can play a large role in killing productivity. In the UK, employees spend around three hours and five minutes of a working week on social media, with the majority checking it mainly to take a mental break from work (34%). However, the effect of this loss in productivity can be huge.
According to one American study, if 1000 workers spend just one hour per day on social media, it could cost a company as much as $35 million each year. Once again, making sure that online monitoring is only limited to small break periods is a far better approach than sporadically checking it during the day.
No one-size-fits-all solution
While there is no clear cut solution for the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, it’s evident that making small changes on a personal level will contribute greatly to helping Britain catch up with the rest of the world.
It’s also important to know just how much these behaviours are killing productivity, for yourself and those around you. Ultimately, whether you’re a contractor or a permanent employee, you want to ensure you’re getting the most out of your day, particularly if you’re also trying to fit in time to find your next employment move.