One hour of extra small business productivity worth £7bn to economy

A third of UK businesses still rely on old-fashioned manual methods – such as bin bags brimming with receipts and piles of paperwork – to organise and file their taxes, Sage research has found. Experts from the accounting company believe that this manual admin burden is contributing to the UK’s long-standing productivity woes.

If each of those 30% of businesses could reclaim just one hour a week of time lost to paperwork, it would be worth £7bn a year to the UK economy in productivity gains. On average, UK bosses spend 51 hours a week working – but only get five hours of sleep each night.

Nearly half of business leaders feel stressed about accumulating and misplacing paperwork. “Our research shows bosses and sole traders are getting bogged down by tedious admin, which is costing them valuable time,” said Andreas Georgiou, VP Product Marketing, Small Business from Sage said. “We’re working on freeing up their time so they can focus on what matters – growing their businesses.”

Autumn Rabbitts, 40, nearly closed down her patisserie when the stress of admin left her in tears and unable to cope. Now that her business is thriving, she’s eager to share the lessons she learned along the way.

She said: “In the early days I was juggling getting my business off the ground with raising five children while my husband was away working in the RAF. As someone who's dyslexic and dyspraxic, I really struggle with numbers and organisation. Grappling with admin, taxes, and paperwork on top of everything else was an absolute nightmare.

“I was working nonstop, drowning in paperwork, and only managing to grab around five hours of sleep each night. The stress reached a point where I seriously considered throwing in the towel.”

When Autumn launched her patisserie on the high street of a Northumberland market town in 2021, the constant worry of missing tax deadlines and facing potential penalties also loomed large. She said: "Handling everything manually, I procrastinated embracing tech because I worried it would only add to my workload. But after months of losing receipts and always feeling two steps behind, I realised I had to make a change.”

She said: “My advice to anyone starting out their business journey would be to embrace technology from the get-go. Don't wait until you're drowning in paperwork like I did and don't be afraid to seek help or guidance when you need it. I’m now finally feeling confident about what the next couple of years have in store.”

It comes as Sage launches a new app and free membership plan for sole traders and self-employed individuals – Sage Accounting Individual.