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Are your profits protected from the great productivity slump?

Workplace benefits that support productivty are crucial to protecting your profit says Hastee CEO James Herbert

Any CEO will understand the relationship between productivity and profit, so the UK’s flatlining productivity since the 2008 economic downturn should be a cause for great concern.

This is the age of the destination employer where workers will seek out organisations that are universally recognised for going the extra mile to make life better for their employees. Breaking down the barriers to productivity and helping your people be at their very best inside and outside the workplace won’t just protect profitability, it will help you to attract and retain the best talent.

So what exactly are the barriers to productivity?

1 Absenteeism and presenteeism
Absence through sickness costs the UK £77 billion annually in lost productivity, but long working hours or working late into the night at home can also have a negative impact on productivity. This is known as presenteeism, and while the occasional bit of overtime can be beneficial, employers need to make sure their staff have a good work-life balance.

According to recent figures, workers regularly brush aside physical and mental health issues to show up for work. As many as 83% of workers surveyed for the CIPD Health and WellBeing at Work Report have observed presenteeism in their organisation and a quarter say the problem has got worse over the last 12 months.

It might feel like something that should be rewarded, but presenteeism should be tackled with the same rigour as absenteeism. Encouraging or allowing workers to work longer hours or to come to work when they’re suffering from poor physical or mental health will inevitably lead to low productivity and burnout. It’s also likely to exacerbate underlying physical or mental conditions.

Both absenteeism and presenteeism can be made worse by the next barrier…

2 Financial stress
Financial wellbeing is probably not something business leaders consider when they think about barriers to productivity. Money is one of those awkward subjects that we, as a nation, feel uncomfortable discussing. Yet, research shows financial stress directly impacts people’s performance at work, as well as their health, sleep, social lives and relationships.

Increasing liquidity for the workforce is one way CEOs can improve productivity. Greater liquidity enables income smoothing so workers don’t have to rely on high-cost credit to get by. In Hastee’s Workplace Wellbeing Study 2019 , 82% of workers, at all salary levels, admitted to sourcing additional funds between pay days, including highcost credit options, such as credit cards, overdrafts and, worst of all, payday loans. More than one third (39%) say that on occasions they have been unable to get into work due to financial difficulties. Only 21% of workers say they are able to budget and live within their means.

3 Poor working environments
Financial stress doesn’t just affect those directly coping with it. Its impact on behaviour can create a demotivating environment for others, including co-workers. Challenging tasks or tight deadlines can add to that stress, creating a ticking time bomb.

This brings us back to absenteeism and presenteeism. A poor working environment can cause people to take more sick days or, if their environment makes it difficult for them to concentrate, to work longer hours or take work home with them. This doesn’t mean productivity is increased; it just means people are working later to finish tasks that should have been completed during standard working hours, burning themselves out in the process.

Breaking down the barriers
So what can employers do to address these three inter-related barriers? A good starting point is to tackle the financial struggles of UK workers head on by implementing a financial wellbeing solution like Hastee that not only improves liquidity by enabling workers to access earned pay as and when they need it, but also helps them manage their finances better.

In Hastee’s research, 66% of workers said digital money management tools helped them be more productive; 54% said they helped them feel more engaged.

At a time when 60% of workers feel stressed about having to wait until the end of the month to get paid, only 14% of employers offer some form of financial wellbeing programme. By taking a lead and implementing financial wellbeing solutions that are free to implement, CEOs can reduce absenteeism and workplace turnover, while improving employee engagement and business productivity.

Hastee is an award-winning employee benefit that increases financial wellbeing through ‘income smoothing’. Workers can choose to receive up to 50% of their gross pay for work already completed via a mobile app (companies can restrict availability to below 50% should they wish/need to). There is no cost to the employer and no impact on company cash flow. Hastee funds the advances, which the company reimburses when they pay their staff. It does not charge interest, just a low and simple fee, with subscription and on-demand options.