Bosses celebrate as skiving stops – for one day only

GET ready to attack the to-do list – the first Wednesday in October is the most productive day of the year, experts have revealed.

The end of summer holidays, the long run in to Christmas and the brief respite from financial worries following pay day all go towards making Wednesday October 6, 2010 the day when workers are least likely to be distracted from their jobs and get things done.

Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at employment law experts ELAS, said: “Our research shows that there’s a gap between the summer holidays ending in September and the long run in to Christmas starting in late October when staff are far less likely to either ring in sick or be distracted at their desk.

“During that gap – which we think lasts just over a month before the October half term – the first Wednesday after pay day is the most productive because people aren’t worrying about money, recovering from one weekend or planning for the next.

“While we wouldn’t suggest bosses try to take advantage by piling on the work, we do think they can expect to see more work out of their staff today than any other day of the year.”

ELAS, which provides compliance advice to several thousand small and medium-sized firms across the UK, began looking for the productivity “sweet spot” after noticing a lull in calls to its employment law helpline between mid-September and the last week in October, especially relating to dealing with absenteeism.

It then compared this lull with figures for calls relating to poor performance – often related to staff time-wasting at their desks – and saw the same pattern in autumn.

Mr Mooney explained: “For both problems, only the month before October half term seemed to be quiet, with staff across the board genuinely working hard.”

After supplementing the analysis of their call patterns by interviewing a range of clients in more detail, ELAS developed a list of factors which they believe routinely affect productivity.

These include:

  • Excessive absenteeism during January – March
  • Isolated peaks in absenteeism around major sporting events – usually during late spring/early summer
  • Poor productivity in early summer as staff plan and arrange their holidays
  • School holidays – when other staff have to juggle both their own work and that of colleagues
  • Poor productivity in the run up to Christmas as staff plan and buy Christmas presents online, and plan and recover from Christmas parties, etc.

“When we really started to drill down, we realised that people got less productive as the month went on, presumably as they start worrying about making ends meet in the run up to pay day,” Mr Mooney added.

“It goes without saying that Mondays and Fridays are never going to be people’s favourites and, in the end, all the evidence pointed towards the first Wednesday in October as the best in the year for getting things done.”

Bosses can still expect to get a fair day’s graft from staff for most of this month as staff either continue to pay off their summer holidays or start saving up for Christmas.

But as of the last week in October, work begins to play second fiddle to Christmas shopping and preparations for the party season, ELAS said.

Based on this research, ELAS is advising its clients they have two options: either to capitalise on the fact that staff are working harder because they have suffered in silence during Sickie Season; or to go easy on staff now but take steps to clamp down on other predictable trends in productivity.

“The worst thing any employer can do is to be inconsistent,” said Mr Mooney. “If you take advantage of staff being at their best, then you will damage morale very quickly by cracking down on them when they take the foot off the gas around Christmas.

“It may seem more difficult at first, but it is far safer legally to set a fair standard at the outset and apply that consistently throughout the year.”

As well as offering employment law advice, ELAS also provides intelligent software solutions such as EmployerSafe, which can help employers identify sickies from real illness, then guide them through addressing problems safely and fairly.