The latest thinking, news and events from the world of Recruitment

UK Workers think 36% of Hours Spent at Work are Unproductive


Germans have the highest self-perception of their productivity at work. Italians have the lowest. UK workers think they are 8 percentage points less productive at work than the Germans.

The findings come from a ‘Global Attitudes to Work’ survey of 6250 employees in 14 countries by consumer and employee insight specialist Qualtrics.

All the employees polled in Europe as well as American, Australian and Canadian workers rated themselves as more productive than UK workers – except the Greeks who think 38% of their working day is unproductive, Spanish workers at 42% and Italians who think most of their working day is is unproductive at 52%.

UK workers are relatively unhappy in their work. Just over half (55%) claim to be satisfied with their jobs, compared with 65% of Germans, French and Americans.  Germans workers are also 10 percentage points happier with their work life balance (66%) than UK workers (56%), though the French are happiest at 68%. Just over one in three Greeks say they are happy with their work life balance.

The research revealed fascinating variations in perceptions of personal productivity relative to employees’ estimates of national productivity.  American workers were the most immodest, estimating their productivity at 11 percentage points greater than their perceptions of the national average. The Italians, the sample’s most modest workforce put the figure at 2.7 percentage points.  Sober British workers thought they were 4 percentage points more productive than their perceptions of the national average.


Motivation to work varied greatly across the sample. Only 15% of UK employees go to work for enjoyment. Dutch workers score highest for working to be productive members of society, (11 percentage points compared with 8 percentage points for UK workers and only 6 percentage points for the Germans). Healthcare is the main motivation to work for Americans and saving for retirement comes first for the Spanish.  Almost twice as many Greek workers are motivated by wanting to make a difference in the world (8%) than the British (6%) and the Spanish (5%) while the Australians are the most motivated by building wealth (by 15%).  Polish and German workers are twice as motivated by being with other people (8%) than the Greeks and the French (3%).


The survey also asked what types of firm employees favoured most.  Three times as many UK workers want to start their own business (30%) rather than work for somebody else’s start up (10%) but 34% prefer to work for a large company. Greek workers are the keenest on owning their own firms (30%). The Germans are the keenest to work for a small established firm.

Start ups were the least favoured and big enterprise the most popular employer in all countries polled; French workers were the keenest to work for a start up (16%) and US Workers were the keenest to work for big enterprise (38%).

Says Ian McVey, UK Manager, Qualtrics;

“A global workforce is the secret behind a world class company because the experience of your customers is contingent on how engaged your employees are.  But without getting to grips with its DNA, even the best employer cannot hope to bring out the best in its people or capitalise on the diversity of its talent base.  We conducted this survey to highlight the enormous disparities in outlooks among international employees.

Feedback please

  • Some people like lots of feedback from management, others want less. The Spanish expressed the most desire for frequent feedback, with over 50% stating that they’d like feedback weekly or more often. In contrast, only 26% of French and 27% of Dutch respondents wanted to receive feedback that frequently.

Socialising with colleagues

  • The Greeks and the Italians make for the most sociable colleagues, with 35% and 28% respectively saying that they …. Only 13% of British workers want to socialise with our colleagues, more than the Irish (10.7%) and twice as much as the New Zealanders (7%). 24% of Brits wanted weekly feedback

What to wear in the office

  • The French (55%) and Italians (47%) think it is important to dress formally at work.  Only 33% of Brits consider formal dress at work to be important, compared with the most relaxed, the Swedes and the Greeks, at 21%.

Social Media use

  • The Greeks spend the most time at work on social media – 24 minutes per day on average, and Americans the lowest at just under 14 minutes per day. UK and Irish report spending just under 17 minutes per day on personal social media at work.

Getting to work

  • 65% of UK workers commute by car compared to 92% in New Zealand. Only 5.5% take the bus. This is interesting in comparison to Poland where 31% of people say they take the bus to work,  more than any other country surveyed. In addition, more people in Poland walk to work than any other country (3.1%). 24% of UK workers take the train, and only 2% walk.


Over the past 3 years, Rachel has been working specifically within the digital marketing space and has worked with some of the country’s top brands. Drawing on her knowledge and experience, Rachel has developed a genuine understanding of how content can engage and compel an audience.

Rachel is responsible for every aspect of web management, marketing and overall production of the Recruitment Buzz brand and is often called upon for her skills and knowledge of WordPress, email marketing software and social media tools.

Rachel works closely with the Recruitment Buzz editorial team and certainly recognises a good story when she sees one!


Related Articles