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The five factors that make Brits most unproductive at work; plus the one surprising thing that doesn't


You might think lack of sleep, a bad diet and being hungover are the factors behind your most unproductive days at work, but a landmark new study shows that’s not the case.

A survey of over 21,000 British employees has revealed the five things that cause a significant drop in day-to-day productivity, which includes personal financial worries to unrealistically tight deadlines.  

The University of Cambridge and research organisation Rand Europe analysed data from industries from finance to manufacturing collated by Britain's Healthiest Company – a new UK initiative that hopes to highlight how healthy and happy the nation’s employers are.

Being bullied at work and back or muscle pain were also found to be as detrimental to productivity as sleeping six hours or less a night.

But the most surprising finding, the researchers say, was that drinking and smoking made little difference at all to short-term work rate. While it may have detrimental effects to productivity in the long term, there was zero correlation between alcohol consumption and performance.

We take a look at the five factors which most contribute to unproductivity in the British workplace. 


Lack of sleep

According to the study, "employees who slept fewer than five hours per night showed an increased work impairment, compared to employees who sleep on average eight or more hours per night". 

Research has shown that a lack of sleep contributes to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made and a negative impact on mood.

Some research has shown that people who get five hours or less of sleep for a few nights in a row have the equivalent of a 0.1 blood alcohol level.

Cambridge University's research suggests that sleep deprived employees can increase their productivity as soon as they start getting seven to eight hours of shuteye per night. 

Does this sound like you? Why not try these '10 proven ways to get a great night's sleep'?

Financial worries

Amongst personal issues, financial concerns and giving unpaid care to family members or relatives were found to affect productivity the most.

A 2009 study by the Institute of Employment Studies found that a third of UK workers worry about debt, with one in five reporting they are being kept awake at night by financial worries. The research also found that that employees who were not worried about their finances were more likely to report improved productivity at work.

Does this sound like you? Why not try cutting out the 'Bad money habits that are costing you more than you realise'?

Being bullied

A large-scale survey of over 5000 UK employees drawn from a wide range of organisations and industries, found that one in 10 respondents had been the victim of bullying in the six months prior to the survey in 2002 and almost half of all respondents had witnessed bullying during the previous five years. Furthermore, 65 per cent of victims had been bullied for more than a year. 

The figures are alarming and it's no surprise that it has a significant impact on an individuals ability to work. When looking at work-environment factors, the Cambridge University study found that employees who were subject to workplace bullying reported significantly higher levels of absenteeism (habitual failure to appear for work) and presenteeism (the act of attending work while sick) than those who are not.

Strained relationships with colleagues at work also caused productivity levels to drop. 

Does this sound like you? Why not try 'How to argue powerfully and persuasively to resolve conflicts'

Unrealistically tight deadlines

You might feel as if you're the only one swamped in work when you're working past 7pm, but forty-five percent of those surveyed reported being subject to unrealistic time pressures, which led to a significant productivity loss.

Does this sound like you? Try 'Three easy ways to carve more time into your stress-filled day'

Back or muscle pain

The NHS says back pain is the largest cause of absence from work in the UK. 

Employees with musculoskeletal and other (chronic) health conditions reported higher rates of productivity loss than workers without such conditions.  

Does this sound like you? Consult your local doctor and check your office desk and chair is not damaging your body



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