Productivity in the UK is being undermined by the burden of unnecessary rules and procedures, according to the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

The latest survey from the CIPD found that employers can unleash the productivity of their workers by allowing them more scope to use their initiative, and create more stimulating work.

'Interesting work' was the most common response to what allowed workers to be more productive in their job (40%), being able to use their own initiative (39%) and being given tasks which complement their skills (25%). On the other hand, the most common hurdles to employee productivity were unnecessary rules and procedures (28%), not having the resources available to do their jobs (28%) and office politics (24%).

The report highlights a need for organisations to consider how they can increase the amount of autonomy employees have at work to use their skills and ideas through more empowering leadership and line management, as well as improved job design.

Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, said: “Productivity at work has been a real focus this year for employers and policy-makers, but it’s easy to forget that the most important perspective on the productivity debate is that of employees themselves. This survey gives us unique insight into what workers feel affects how well they work, and the answer is much simpler than many would probably assume.

“Improving productivity is an ongoing, long-term project for the UK, but in the shorter term, employers can help employees use their skills and ideas by focusing on developing leaders and line managers who empower rather than control staff and by designing jobs which provide sufficient autonomy. Setting employees free to innovate and play to their strengths also involves an employment relationship based on trust and removing unnecessary and restrictive rules and procedures that get in the way of common sense and agility.”

Engagement is also a key factor affecting productivity at work, and the proportion of engaged employees has dropped from 39% to 36% this year, with men more likely to be disengaged at work than women. Amongst those that are disengaged at work, 44% feel they are over-qualified – indeed the survey also found that overall, nearly three in ten employees (29%) think they are overqualified for their role.

Engagement also has an impact on productivity, as significantly more disengaged employees (17%) say they are less productive than neutral (5%) or engaged (3%) employees. The good news is that employees point to the solution to over-qualification themselves, with three-fifths (61%) suggesting that broadening their job role would make better use of their skills and experience.