Productivity practices from around the world

As a Productivity Ninja for Think Productive, Hayley Watts officially has the coolest job title on the bill. She has trained and coached people in all sectors, from small charities to multinational businesses, to implement methods that instantly increase productivity and cut back on stress.

She joined us at Stylist Live this year on our THRIVE Stage. Below, Hayley shares her tried and tested productivity tips from around the world.

Productivity practices from around the world


I like the Fika, which is a standard daily practice in Sweden, it roughly translates as a coffee break. But the point is more that everyone stops working at the same time. What’s so good about that then? Well a few things. Firstly it creates a deadline, and most of us work better when we have one of these. So people might aim to get something done before that break.

Secondly, it’s not that everyone is taking a break, but that everyone is doing it at the same time. Now that means that people aren’t going to be looking at someone and wondering why they are taking yet another break. It also means it’s a good time to catch up with colleagues about that non-work stuff, it’s the chat around the water cooler that helps build relations with those people we work with. It can also mean that people are less distracted by this kind of chat in the office when they are looking to concentrate. So, I’m very much sold on the idea of a Fika.


Luxembourg is consistently above the UK in terms of productivity stats and are currently rated as the most productive country. Their working week is reported to be 29 hours a week. Sitting at the bottom of the table is Mexico with a 41.5 hour working week. There are exceptions, but there is a very close link between the countries with shorter working hours and increased productivity. Interestingly that plays out between wellness indexes too. There does come a point when we get tired, when we are more likely to make mistakes, or things just take longer. There is research that shows when judges are deciding if people should be given bail or not, they are more likely to give bail first thing in the morning and less likely to do so just before lunch. I don’t know about you, but if I were accused of a crime I’d hope the judge had just had a snack before hearing my bail application! But I also know I make less good decisions when I am tired or hungry, so why would I expect this to be different from others?


France was in the press a lot earlier this year, with legislation coming into force that required employees to make sure that workers had the right to disconnect. I’m intrigued by this. I think in the UK, we need to claim this right back for ourselves. I train people on email management and facilitate workshops about email culture, so I see that people don’t feel they already have this right. The trouble is people at all levels across a lot of the businesses I work with feel this way. So managers feel they have respond, and quickly, their staff feel that they have to respond quickly to their bosses. Others feel that they have to respond quickly to their customers, and that they have to do this in the evening and at the weekend. One of the reasons for this, is that people’s bosses, customers, and colleagues are all responding at these times, but no one talks about it do they? Perhaps if we did, we would realise that no one really enjoys this ‘always on’ culture. No one really thinks its necessary when they stop and think about it. So, be brave, start those conversations, agree that if it’s urgent, you will call, and create some time where you give yourself and others permission to disconnect. I dare you to try it, for a day, or a week, or perhaps longer, try not checking in with your work email outside of your working day. See how it works for you, share that experience with your colleagues. Let’s get talking about email culture and our ability to switch off.

If you would like to find out more about what Hayley and the team at Think Productive get up to, you can get in touch via Twitter: @ninjawatts

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