Reinvigorate the workforce to improve productivity

14 April 2020

Manufacturers must focus on workforce wellbeing to help overcome the productivity crisis according to James Herbert.

Productivity in the UK is in decline. A recent report from the Office for National Statistics shows that between June and April last year productivity dropped at its fastest annual pace in five years. And the worrying part is, it’s been flatlining since the economic downturn of 2008. 

What can be done to turn this situation around? By exploring some of the common barriers to productivity, businesses across the UK can identify and implement solutions that will help to reinvigorate the workforce and improve perofrmance. 

Reducing absenteeism is a key objective for HR managers. However, too much time at work and working long hours can also impact productivity in a negative way. This is known as presenteeism. 

Presenteeism should be tackled with the same vigour that businesses address absenteeism. Encouraging or allowing workers to continually work longer hours, or come to work when they’re suffering from poor physical or mental health, will inevitably lead to poor productivity.   
Employers need to ensure their workers are striking the right balance. But both absenteeism and presenteeism can be exacerbated by the next barrier in this article…

Financial stress
Financial wellbeing is something business leaders probably don’t think about when they think about the barriers to productivity. However, research shows financial stress is a widespread issue in UK workforces – and it directly impacts productivity. 

Hastee’s Workplace Wellbeing Study 2018 found that one-fifth of workers admit to wasting working hours dealing with repayments. In 2019’s instalment of the study, respondents confirmed that financial stress impacts their work, as well as their health, sleep, social lives and relationships – all factors that can undoubtedly impact their performance at work. 

The 2019 study found that only 21% of workers say they are able to budget and live within their means. It’s clear that borrowing to get by is rife within UK businesses. Not only is this distracting people at work – in some cases it has prevented them from getting to work with 39% admitting they have been unable to make it to work due to financial difficulties. 

Financial stress doesn’t just affect those directly coping with it. It’s impact on behaviour can create a demotivating environment for the people around them. This brings us back full circle to absenteeism and presenteeism. A poor working environment can lead to people taking more sick days. On the other hand, if they’re dealing with a work environment that makes it difficult to concentrate, they might slow down or become increasingly distracted from the task at hand. 

An ageing workforce
It’s no secret that the manufacturing sector relies on a workforce that is predominantly older. Over-40s typically make up the majority of the labour pool and this is one of the highest concerns for 75% of manufacturers according to a recent YouGov survey. 

The issue isn’t just that the workforce could be growing tired with many approaching retirement age. Manufacturers are also struggling to attract new blood to the sector. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reports that more than four-fifths of manufacturers struggled to hire the right staff in the final months of 2018. 

Recruiting younger workers to a sector, that is often wrongly-viewed as ‘unexciting’, requires more exposure to the opportunities the sector provides. Manufacturers also need to align themselves with destination employers that attract younger workers through the benefits and culture they offer. By implementing benefits that help workers tackle issues such as financial wellbeing, employers can attract younger workers and ensure they are living relatively stress free lives which will support their workplace producitivity. 

James Herbert is CEO at Hastee. 

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