Could the UK’s ‘Victorian’ attitude to working hours be to blame for falling productivity levels?

By Indigo Stafford

Photo Above: UK Flag © Photy on Flickr

This October it was announced that levels of productivity in UK workplaces are continuing to fall.

A Glasgow based business guru says the UK’s poor productivity levels are due to our outdated “Victorian” attitude to work.

Nikki Slowey from the organisation Family Friendly Working believes that in order to see an improvement in our workplace productivity, society must move on from our old-fashioned workplace ideologies.

Slowey said: “The way society arranges work hasn’t evolved. I think we are stuck in the Victorian mentality of nine till five and clocking in and out.

“These long repetitive hours we are doing are damaging and counterproductive. We are rewarding people for the hours they put in rather than the quality of work or their output and it’s causing people to feel overworked and resentful.”

The nation’s workplace productivity levels are the lowest since records began, but UK working hours continue to rise.

As Programme Director, Nikki works alongside the organisation to hold seminars with the aim of encouraging and supporting employers to adopt a more flexible ways of approaching working hours.

She said: “I help a lot of people who are struggling for whatever reason and just want help to compress their hours from five days a week to four.

“It’s usually simple reasons that they need the time off. Maybe they would like to have more time to spend on volunteering, studying or visiting an elderly family member.”

Do gender inequalities influence Scotland’s productivity levels and economy?

Between 17 September and 13 November the Scottish Government’s Economy, Jobs and Fair Work committee called for submissions addressing issues with productivity in the workplace.

Policy and advocacy organisation, Close The Gap, raised the issue of how gender inequality effects both workplace productivity and economic growth.

In their submission the organisation stated: “There is clear and mounting international evidence that gender equality at work, in addition to benefiting women and their families, is also a critical driver for improved business performance.”

“Labour market rigidity results in the under-utilisation of women’s skills, which in turn places artificial limits on women’s productivity.”

Another issue that the organisation raised is that woman may be moving away from business and into self-employment despite woman-led business contributing over £5 billion towards our economy.

Women are also increasingly burdened by caring duties which are not counted towards the country’s gross domestic product.

Close the Gap said: “Women’s unpaid care work enables the economy to function, and yet calculations to determine GDP do not count unpaid work.

“The unpaid caring that women (and some men) do for children, sick and disabled people, and older people is categorised by mainstream economic models as ‘leisure’ and ‘unproductive’, and therefore is not counted.

“Paid care work is categorised as ‘work’ and is counted towards GDP, although it is systematically undervalued by the market which is reflected by the low pay associated with it.”