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Barnett Waddingham
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Productivity: the challenge of our time?

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Chancellor George Osborne recently described low productivity in the UK as the 'challenge of our time' and the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney also commented on productivity being key to our economic recovery; but what is actually causing low productivity in the UK?

If you look at our European neighbours we do lag behind the likes of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and across ‘the pond’ the United States. I believe that our limited interaction with employee wellbeing plays a key role in our comparatively low productivity. 

If we look at figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2014 around national wellbeing in the EU it is clear that most of the countries that have the highest level of wellbeing are also the ones that have the highest levels of productivity. Once again, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Austria and a few less notable others all come out ahead of us in both wellbeing and productivity. Looking in more detail, the ranking tables for the top 10 countries in the EU for both productivity and wellbeing are as follows:

Productivity Wellbeing
1. Luxembourg 1. Denmark
2. Belgium 2. Finland
3. Netherlands 3. Sweden
4. France 4. Netherlands
5. Germany 5. Luxembourg
6. Ireland 6. Austria
7. Denmark 7. Belgium
8. Sweden 8. Spain
9. Austria 9. Ireland
10. United Kingdom 10. Germany
  11. United Kingdom

As you can see eight countries appear in the top ten lists for both productivity and wellbeing and the UK finds itself lower down the table on both. So if low wellbeing is part of the problem, what is the solution?

“We believe that there are six pillars of employee wellbeing that have operational impact on companies - job security, financial security, health, support, protection and work/life balance.”

It is important to understand that employee wellbeing is not just about health. We believe that there are six pillars of employee wellbeing that have operational impact on companies - job security, financial security, health, support, protection and work/life balance. When wellbeing is high across each of these areas, increased productivity is one of the many benefits.

Understanding your workforce against these six pillars and knowing where to target your wellbeing spend is key, as all companies will have unique risks to their workforce. These are not just across the entire workforce, but departmentally, geographically and also across different age and affluence levels. We help our clients understand what risks are pertinent to them and help them to build a strategy that combats those risks, raising wellbeing across the company.

I am not saying that wellbeing is the only answer to the productivity challenge but with the significant benefits high wellbeing can bring, surely it is a challenge worth undertaking?

This blog post was written by Carl Chapman. For further enquiries please contact Damian Stancombe, Head of Workplace Health and Wealth.


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