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The UK is working hard, but not smart. Despite working longer hours than ever before, Britain is in the midst of a productivity crisis. And, with the growth of the 24-hour economy and ever-increased demand from consumers, it is a crisis that shows little sign of ending any time soon.

With Brexit on the horizon, it’s vital that the UK continues to find ways to compete on the global stage. And a huge part of this will be cultivating a more dynamic labor force.

Of course, there’s no silver bullet for solving the productivity crisis, and I can’t pretend that we have all the answers. But I can share some answers from Quinyx’s home country of Sweden, where – as a nation – we are known for achieving high productivity levels.

A happy workforce fit for the UK’s future

At Quinyx we know that happiness is the key to unlocking productivity. Employees who enjoy their jobs are more motivated to perform to the best of their abilities, enabling them to deliver better results at a quicker rate.

And in Sweden, we believe everyone has the right to enjoy their job, regardless of age, industry or location.

So, if workplace happiness is the missing piece in fixing the productivity puzzle, how can UK business leaders go about boosting morale?

Optimization, not maximization

Swedish business leaders know that optimizing their workforce has more value than maximizing it. There’s a common expression in Sweden – lagom – which means ‘just the right amount’, and it’s often used in the context of productivity and business culture.

Swedish workers are encouraged to focus on exactly what is needed and doing it well, rather than taking on extra unnecessary work. Leaving the office on time is ingrained into business culture, and working overtime is often seen as an indication of poor planning and time management.

By getting the best, rather than the most, out of your workforce, it’s likely you’ll have more engaged employees who are more invested in their work, ultimately delivering better results at a quicker rate.

A short break goes a long way

Swedes have learned over the years that employees are much happier and more productive in the long run if they’re given some time during the day to switch off and reset.

That’s why the ‘fika’ break is institutional within Swedish business practices. Fika takes place once or twice a day in Sweden – it’s a time where employees can drink coffee, have a snack and chat with colleagues, away from their desk. They then return to work revitalized for the rest of the day.

It might seem small, but introducing short breaks throughout the day allows workers to dedicate their attention more effectively. After all, working at 90% capacity for 75% of the day is much more impactful than working at 60% all day.

Flexibility is the answer

In Sweden, it’s believed that work should never come before home-life priorities, which is why the country ranks best in the world for work-life balance. Flexibility is the norm within Swedish businesses, not the exception.

Although flexibility in the UK has increased in recent years – research conducted by Quinyx last year found an increase of 1.3 million flexible workers since 2011 – there’s more to be done. The same research found 73% of British workers still face issues when it comes to flexibility in their current work schedules, despite one fifth believing they would be more productive if given more flexible working opportunities.

Offering flexibility to employees at work doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right tools and technologies in place, flexible working can be easy. By cutting down admin and allowing business leaders and employees to collaborate on a schedule that works for everyone, solutions like smart workforce technology can save time, reduce costs and increase happiness – and, ultimately, unlock productivity.

About the author: Quinyx was founded in 2005 by CEO Erik Fjellborg after a summer spent working at McDonald’s. After witnessing how difficult it can be for managers to sort shifts manually, Erik built one of the world’s first fully web-based Workforce Management solutions to do the heavy lifting. McDonald’s loved Erik’s solution and became Quinyx’s first customer.

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