Half of Britons admit that they could more productive at work but feel that they would get more done if their employers valued them more and gave them greater control over their working patterns.
According to a survey carried out for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), more than half (54 per cent) of workers in the UK want to be more productive but feel they get too bogged down in dealing with day-to-day detail to ever fully realise their potential.
On an average working day, half the workforce says that they are 'reasonably' rather than 'highly' productive, suggesting there's some way to go to fully realise personal potential in the workplace.
The problem is not simply one of motivation. Half said that meetings starting late impede the efficiency of their day, while a similar proportion complained about email overload, with long, largely irrelevant email 'trails' wasting otherwise productive time.
But almost half of the 500 people surveyed also said that they would be more productive if they had more flexible working patterns.
More still - almost six out of ten – felt that being in control of their work-life balance was a crucial factor affecting their productivity, while with two-thirds said they would be more inclined to apply for a job with an employer who provided flexible working opportunities.
Employers, meanwhile, are increasingly recognising the link between flexibility and choice and employee motivation. More than nine out of ten now agree that 'people work best when they can balance their work and other aspects of their lives', with the level of flexible working opportunities on offer almost doubling since the DTI's first work-life balance study in 2000.
The other message from the research is that employee engagement, giving staff fulfilling work and making them feel valued, are also crucial elements in the productivity puzzle.
More than eight in ten of those surveyed said they would be more committed to their company if it helped them realise their full potential in the workplace.
Almost three-quarters felt that receiving regular feedback and praise from their boss motivates them more than anything else, and seven out of ten believe that being asked for their opinion and having a sense of what is going on in the business helps to create a motivated workforce.
Three-quarters also pointed to appropriate training and development opportunities as being very important factors in building a committed workforce.
The findings echo psychological research in the workplace that has shown time and again that positive feedback is one of the most effective ways of changing behaviour for the better.
Management-Issues columnist and leadership development specialist, Dan Bobinski, says that people like their work to be noticed and they want to feel valued. And so good management means building morale and productivity by building up the people who are doing the work.
"People want to be successful!" he says. "If you show them how they’re being successful, and then show them the way to continue being successful, they will strive to be more successful."
"But ignore your people’s efforts, and you ignore the glue that holds your company together."