Output down, say ONS productivity figures for Q1 2020

Along with output per hour, which is the headline measure for UK labour productivity according to the ONS, output per worker fell by 3.1%, while multi-factor productivity was down by 2.6%, to its lowest growth rate since Q3 2009.

In addition, public service productivity decreased by 4.8%, with this being hit by a 3.2% rise in input alongside a fall in output of 1.6%.

The decrease in output per worker during January to March 2020, meanwhile, was put down to the impact of the government’s furlough scheme in the statistic authority’s commentary.

Healthcare has been the main driver of input growth overall, but this also contributed to the fall in output, along with education.

Across the board, productivity has been hit by a change to new working schedules and arrangements from home, as well as many employees being furloughed.

Schools were forced to close in March as a result of government-mandated lockdown, meaning a shift to remote teaching using conferencing software for a bulk of teachers.

As for healthcare, many professionals within the sector are investing time into drug discovery, working with AI technology to find effective treatments for Covid-19.

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Commenting on the latest productivity figures from the ONS, Andy Joeres, regional vice-president, UK & Ireland at Celonis, commented: “The UK’s productivity has made for underwhelming reading for far too long, and while this morning’s figures show the early impact of Covid-19, the pandemic should not be used to mask the country’s underlying productivity issues. Instead, this should be treated as an opportunity to reset and restart how we operate, with efficient and productive ways of working now more important than ever.

“Technology is often positioned as the cure for all our modern ills, and tech investment among UK businesses has continued to soar – but is this really the answer to our productivity woes? New research from IFS found that 70% of businesses increased or maintained digital transformation spend during the pandemic. However, this high investment in technology hasn’t succeeded in preventing a serious dip in national productivity.

“This highlights a fundamental issue in how businesses are run – investing in promising new technology such as AI or RPA to try and automate yourself into higher productivity simply won’t work. After all, you can buy the best, most expensive golf clubs in the world, but that won’t make you Tiger Woods. It is only by applying it correctly, which requires a deeper understanding of your business’s operations, that you will see results.”

Mayur Pitamber, senior solutions product marketing manager at 8×8, said: “Now more than ever, the current disruption has demonstrated that core to business resilience is the ability to communicate with your employees and customers – regardless of where they’re based, in a timely and efficient manner, and through their communications channel of choice. This is only possible when organisations have a cloud communications platform that supports both remote working and multi-channel communication, be it via chat, SMS, voice or video, which is increasingly becoming the de facto communications channel, given the rise of remote work settings.

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“Where staff don’t have the communication tools they need to connect with their teams and customers, productivity levels are significantly impacted. This can often result in missed business opportunities and delay in resolving customer service issues.

“To address this, organisations need to redesign business communications that enable their workers to seamlessly collaborate and connect with others. With speed the new battleground for competition, meeting and exceeding customer expectations, quickly and effectively, will not only result in more business, but happier, and motivated employees – truly building a solid foundation for business recovery and continuity.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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