Staff’s productivity peters out as the day goes on, a recent
survey has confirmed.
A third feel their least productive period of the day is between
4pm and 6pm with 29 per cent saying it is between 12-2pm. Only 2
per cent said 10am to noon was least productive, the study of 150
US executives for recruitment firm Accountemps, published last
So what do the findings mean for social care professionals? Could
it raise questions about how social workers manage their day to
compensate for flagging energy levels? And does it also mean the
care sector should start looking to develop a more flexible working
Social workers often structure their day so they see clients in the
mornings and do paperwork after lunch.
Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, says flagging energy, combined with the fact many
professionals detest report writing, could affect the quality of
“The people who like writing reports will be outweighed by those
who consider it a chore. In some instances it could affect the
quality,” he says.
Patrick Morgan, a hospital social worker at South Lanarkshire
Council, says report writing has become more “mundane” now that it
involves a lot of computer data input.
“Increasingly we do all our own reports and put them on social
work information systems. I feel less productive when I’m sitting
there – the admin side takes up a lot of time,” he says.
However, Morgan says that hospital social workers’ days, unlike
those in council social services offices, are dictated by family
visiting times, and when patients are being treated and cared for
by clinical staff.
Tony Hunter, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, says the key to avoiding workplace malaise is to allow
staff the freedom to organise their own time.
“It can be complicated for a team manager, but good workers know
when they are best at doing which parts of their job,” he
New technology and mobile working should improve the work/life
balance, says Hunter.
“It makes sense to enable people to write reports when they have
picked up the children from school, fed and put them to bed,” he
Johnston agrees that employers need to be more imaginative about
building flexibility into working times. “Employers are still not
taking forward flexible working.”
In the meantime, a cup of black coffee seems to be the way most
social workers get through to the end of the day. Others prefer
taking a screen break or five minutes of fresh air, while Hunter
breaks up meetings by going around the office chatting to
- The study can be seen at www.accountemps.com
Tips for Higher Productivity
- Don’t delay difficult activities until the end of the day, when
energy and enthusiasm may wane. Try to use your last hour or so to
catch up on routine tasks such as responding to emails and
- Get a breath of air by walking down the high street. Go outside
for lunch. Even a few minutes away from your desk can help you
recharge and be more productive
- No matter how busy you are, remember to make time for a meal
midway through the day and nutritious snacks in between. Missing
meals is a recipe for malaise.
- Putting work issues out of your mind for even a few minutes can
provide the boost to finish the day strongly.
Tips from Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of
Managing Your Career for Dummies