14/11/2013 12:26 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

Breaking Bad Work Habits

As Prime Minister David Cameron often reminds us, the UK is in a global race for trade, jobs, and prosperity. We're competing not just with so called 'developed' countries, but against the might of India and China, plus a whole host of other up and coming countries eager to win their share of global trade.

Ultimately 'success' comes down to organisations nurturing creativity and ideas in order to grow and flourish. The good news is that that UK economy appears to be on the mend. A substantial 29.87million of us are in work and most jobs are full time and permanent. However, there are question marks as to how productive we are whilst at work. Official stats from the Office of National Statistics shows that we are less productive per hour worked than all of our G7 rivals (with the exception of Japan).

Of course, the success of the UK workforce can't just be measured in terms of productivity, but it does serve as useful benchmark as to how we're performing as a nation. When I penned the book Business Reimagined: Why work isn't working and what you can do about it, it was based on the hypothesis that the workplace is increasingly no longer fit for purpose and that an office-based culture, when applied too rigidly, could actually stifle innovation and productivity. A few months on, an independent study of more than 2,000 UK office workers, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by YouGov, confirms this.

The report - The Daily Grind: Break the Mould -clearly shows that we're getting bogged down in process and sadly for 77% of the UK office workers surveyed, 'a productive day in the office' constitutes 'clearing email'. This fixation with completing such tasks is having a detrimental impact on the level of contribution individual employees feel they bring to their employer with less than a quarter (23%) saying they have never made a major contribution to their job. Unsurprisingly, only one in seven (16%) UK office workers are actually inspired by the work they do.

But there is a desire amongst office workers to do things differently and for people to turn their hand to something that has real benefit to the companies they work for. Respondents said that 'creating something new' (70%) and 'having a great idea' (67%) would make them feel productive. However, nearly one third (30%) believe that their current employer would prefer to settle for what has gone before rather than do things differently. Another 39% agree that their organisation needs to rethink how it operates.

So what needs to change? What can we as employees do to positively impact on the organisations we work for? Here are my top tips:

  • Review processes within your organisation that aren't working effectively and take the initiative to make recommendations on how to fix them by doing things differently, and better - seek out feedback and thoughts from others in your team or workplace and take the lead on driving cultural change from within
  • Be the master of technology; don't let technology be the master of you: Be mindful of when and where you get the best from technology. Just because you have access to your work email from your device everywhere you go, it doesn't mean you have to be online 24 hours a day. Equally, switching off altogether may be effective if you need to do some deep thinking
  • Consider what channel you use to communicate - could a quick chat take the place of several emails? Is there a better forum for collaboration and sharing?
  • Set aside some thinking time, when you have no distractions and can formulate ideas that could really make a difference
  • If your firm uses an enterprise social network to share information and work on projects then use it - a bit like Facebook for business, these tools, such as Yammer, are quickly becoming the best way to share good ideas around the business