Tech-savvy Brits failing at common household tasks

Woman fixing sink

More UK adults can set up a smartphone than bleed a radiator, unblock a sink or put up a shelf, Aviva research reveals.

By Sarah Lewis

The study, which grilled 2,000 Brits about common household tasks, shows people may be prioritising tech and social media savviness over practical skills 1.

While three in five are confident when it comes to setting up a social media account, just two in five can put up a shelf.

And if you’d readily forgive the 48% who have no idea when it comes to wiring a plug, perhaps you’d raise an eyebrow at the half of UK adults under 25 who don’t know how to use a washing machine.

The generation skills gap

As you might expect, the gulf between technical know-how and of practical domestic skills is wider in younger age groups. Only two fifths (39%) know how to read a map compared to the UK average of 59%. However, this age group is most likely to know the valuable life skill of how to set up an online dating profile (41%), considerably higher than the average across all age groups (31%).

The younger generation is generously sharing their skills with their elders. A fifth (20%) of those aged under 25 have shown a parent how to use hashtags on social media and nearly a third (31%) have taught a parent how to take a selfie, #skills.

“There’s a place for practical skills too”

Aviva’s MD of Personal Lines, Global General Insurance Gareth Hemming, says: “It’s fascinating to see how life skills are changing and which forms of knowledge are being shared across generations. Younger people are more likely to pick up ‘traditional’ skills from older relatives, while parents and grandparents are benefiting from younger people’s tech talents. At Aviva, we’re definitely seeing more people using digital channels for a range of tasks, from taking out a policy to making a claim.

“However, not everything can be done online, so there’s a place for practical skills too. Aviva analysis suggests that bodged DIY jobs can cost UK householders more than £7 billion a year. Even a seemingly simple task such as putting up a picture could lead to a burst pipe – which can cause all manner of headaches. While it’s great to learn new skills and try out new things, if people are not confident taking on a household challenge, it may be better to ask someone who knows what they’re doing!”

Practical skills by age

Household task

Percentage of UK people who can do task confidently (all ages)

Percentage of UK people who can do task confidently (aged 16-24)

Percentage of UK people who can do task confidently (aged 25-34)

Percentage of UK people who can do task confidently (aged 55+)

Use a washing machine

73%

49%

57%

91%

Change a lightbulb

69%

42%

50%

90%

Iron a shirt

67%

47%

50%

86%

Cook a complete meal without using a recipe

62%

39%

46%

83%

Hang a picture on a wall

61%

46%

45%

76%

Set up a smart phone

61%

57%

59%

60%

Read a map

59%

39%

41%

79%

Set up a social media account

59%

55%

58%

58%

Switch utilities provider e.g. gas / electricity

57%

23%

41%

79%

Arrange an insurance policy

56%

22%

37%

81%

Unblock a sink

53%

26%

36%

73%

Set up / connect to a new printer

51%

36%

41%

64%

Wire a plug

48%

21%

18%

76%

Bleed a radiator

45%

15%

27%

68%

Put up a shelf

41%

28%

33%

51%

Put up wallpaper

37%

23%

25%

51%

Change a flat tyre

32%

19%

19%

42%

Set up a dating profile on an app

31%

41%

32%

22%

Find out what home improvements you need to tell your insurer about.