Australians more productive than
12 months ago

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National productivity average up, wasted time down in Aussie workplaces

Australian workers are more productive and wasting 4% less time at work than 12 months ago, with the average amount of time wasted falling from 18% to 14% since October 2011.

“We are producing more from the same amount of hours than 12 months ago. While it mightn’t sound like a lot, this is a significant change in a short period given we’ve been operating in a declining productivity environment for the past decade or so.” Neil Plumridge, Oceania Advisory Leader

The EY Australian Productivity Pulse™ measures Australian workers’ views about their organisation’s and their own individual productivity, and is based on a survey of more than 2,100 employees spanning seven industries and from all levels within organisations, in both the private and public sectors.

Wave 3 of the survey found the level of productivity in workplaces had lifted the ‘national productivity average’ from 7.25 from to 7.58 in the past six months. The increase in productivity levels was driven by a jump in workers moving up the Australian Productivity Scale™ and rating their productivity eight or nine out of ten.

This is a promising trend and consistent with the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data that showed a stronger rate of productivity growth than seen in many years. However, 14% wasted time every day still cost organisations an estimated $87 billion in wages per annum. While we have turned a corner, there is still a long road ahead for Australian organisations to reverse the productivity decline.

Majority of Australians working smarter with more than four in five workers (83%) striving to increase productivity

Based on the average work week, Australians are now spending 15 minutes more each day on work that adds real value to their organisations and wasting less time on activities such as: waiting for approval from others (18%); sending and replying to emails (12%); taking care of personal matters (11%); technology waiting time (10%); meetings (10%) and doing things manually that could be automated (10%). Social media only accounted for 7%.

Australian workers were also proactively trying to increase their own productivity through a range of strategies, including: reducing errors (60%), better time planning (58%) and improved multi-tasking (51%).

Is it clear the majority of Australians were working ‘smarter’ with more than four in five workers (83%) striving to increase productivity, however fewer than two in five (38%) actually achieved these improvements.

“People clearly feel that being productive is the responsibility of individual workers. They feel strongly that they have power over their own productivity levels. This shows us once again that productivity is the sum of all its parts.”Neil Plumridge added: “Although workers felt the responsibility of increased productivity lay on the shoulders of all individuals in a workplace, they also felt that the most significant beneficiary of improved worker productivity was the organisation rather than the individual.”

The survey also revealed that flexibility in the workplace continued to be of importance especially in light of increasing evidence that Australians are feeling disempowered and out of control.

“We know that workers who feel they have flexibility in their roles are more productive. They are actively trying to increase their own productivity, more likely to be working at their lifetime best, less likely to want to leave their organisation and are more satisfied.”

Key findings of Wave 3 of the Australian Productivity Pulse™ include:

  • Consistent with previous findings, the importance of productivity increases with age. Sixty five percent of 55-64 year olds considered productivity to be extremely important, in contrast to only 32% of 20-24 year olds
  • Currently, only half the workforce believes their organisations are “very good” or “quite good” at communicating about productivity.
  • When productivity was communicated well workers were more productive and more satisfied; in fact, 91% of people in organisations where this was done well were trying to increase their own productivity – in contrast to 76% in organisations where productivity communication was poor.
  • In organisations where productivity was communicated well, 43% of the workforce were ‘very satisfied’ in their job, compared to only 5% in organisations where productivity communication was considered poor.

Across most industries we have seen examples of managers and executives working to tackle productivity. The long term winners will be the organisations where managers and workers work together to tackle productivity across organisational architecture, people management, technology and capital, and innovation.

Wave 3 of the Australian Productivity Pulse™ is available from your EY contact or on the web at