The UK’s productivity puzzle is nothing new. The country has been grappling with low levels for years – between 2009 and 2019, Britain’s productivity growth rate was the second slowest among the G7 countries, only faintly outdoing Italy. reveals that coupled with the crippling cost of living crisis, the situation has taken an alarming turn.

A major blow for the productivity puzzle crisis…

Almost one-third of the UK’s working population, accounting for an estimated 8.2 million people, are reportedly experiencing low productivity at work due to money troubles with a further 31% expecting a similar scenario within the next year.

A study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found 20% of the British public were already living in poverty in 2020/21, which accounts for 13.4 million people, 7.9 million of which were working-age adults.

The projections are equally harrowing: The thinktank New Economics Forum (NEF) estimates that by December 2024, a staggering 43% of UK households will be unable to afford a decent standard of living. Those who fall below the threshold are expected to be short by £10,000 per year.

Amid the rising financial insecurity, many point to the weakening welfare system which had experienced a series of reforms over the last decade, resulting in gigantic cuts. During the UK’s infamous austerity age spanning the 2010s, the welfare system was stripped down £37 billion.

…and another on wellbeing

The survey showed that 40% of workers feel physical and mental strain under financial pressures, while 32% lose sleep, and a quarter report feeling depressed.

Of those who are affected mentally, 26% are seeking help to cope with stress, 20% expect to speak to a mental health professional or receive counselling, and 19% plan to seek advice from their GP.

These figures do not bode well with the growing mental health crisis in the UK. According to data from October 2022, the waiting list for mental health patients stood at a record 7.2 million while waiting times reached 47 weeks.

According to the British Medical Association’s estimations, over 1 million people per month have contacted mental health helplines since the start of the pandemic. It’s also been reported that now there are four times as many people who are waiting over 12 hours in A&E before they can have mental health care.

What does the public want?

In order to cope with soaring prices, the British public requests appropriate pay increases. When asked to choose a suitable increase from between 1% to 12%, two popular answers came about: 34% of Britons said a 5% pay rise sounds ‘about right’, while a further 34% said the same about a 10% rise.

The denominator was the respondents’ political affiliation: people who voted for Tories in the last general election found 5% to be fair at 41%, while 43% of the Labour voters said only 10% would be appropriate for the current situation.

The figures paint a grim picture, but also show how much employers need to rehash their duty of care policies and refine their outreach to struggling employees. Although limited in their power, firms need to keep their ends up to support their workers in these testing times.

Jonathan Merry, CEO of

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Workplace Wellbeing Professional is an online magazine featuring news and analysis on a broad range of employee wellbeing topics, focused on a UK based audience.