In meetings amongst executives and HR departments alike, employee productivity remains a top priority. And although various productivity incentives have been implemented, many businesses still overlook the biggest productivity enabler of all – the physical workplace.
Today, only a few organisations place sufficient strategic importance on the physical working environment as a key driver of organisational performance. A recent Stoddart Review study highlighted this oversight by providing evidence that the measurement of workplace effectiveness has largely revolved around space utilisation, rather than the design’s impact on productivity. This impact of this oversight is becoming increasingly apparent in our workplaces today.
According to a research study conducted by Leesman in UK and Ireland, only 53% of respondents agree that their workplace allows them to work productively.
Furthermore, the Leesman Index reported that 86% of employees in “high performing workplaces” indicated that their workplace enables them to work productively, while only 15% of employees in “low performing workplaces” indicated a similar opinion.
So, what are the factors that disrupt productivity in the workplace?
The workplace is not conducive to different ways of working
Often times an open-office landscape, or another form of office design, is believed to be the ideal solution for creating a more collaborative or productive office environment – but this one-size-fits-all approach is not the optimal way to approach design.
For example, the Stoddart Review reports that a large open-office do not always result in a more collaboration, efficiency or innovation. In fact, open-plan offices can be distracting, noisy, irritating and counterproductive. These clear pitfalls of an open-plan office were evident in a 2013 University of California study, which discovered that office workers in open-offices were interrupted as often as every three minutes by either digital or human distractions. Furthermore, it was observed that after a distraction, it could take employees up to 23 minutes before they returned to the task in hand.
That being said, open-offices have various benefits, but workplaces should provide different environments that are beneficial to employees’ different styles of working. This entails layering the work environment with places that support connectivity, openness, accessibility and privacy.
The workplace has only been optimized for space utilisation
Reporting to the financial director or chief operating officer is business as usual for employees working within facility management and corporate real estate industry; however, this pattern of reporting has created a cost-driven approach to office design. In these business environments, the physical workplace is viewed as a cost rather than a valuable asset.
Therefore, many companies strive to increase occupant density to lower costs, creating noisy environments that frustrate employees and obstruct efficiency. This approach to thinking is actually quite the paradox, because, in reality, nothing is costlier than an unproductive workforce.
To succeed in enhancing employee productivity, Stoddart Review suggests that these reporting hierarchies be rethought.
Progressive employers, who view the workplace, tech and human capital on equal footing, have already taken this step. These progressive employers have put an emphasis on learning about their employees’ needs by appraising their workplace and soliciting regular feedback.
The workplace is viewed as a product – not a journey
Despite the fact that real-estate is the second largest cost (after salaries) for companies, businesses only review their infrastructure holdings when a lease event arises – unlike employees, which are typically reviewed once a year.
This neglect reflects the failure on behalf of businesses view their workplace as a contributor to organisational performance by creating review processes structured around efficiency.
Creating a productive workplace for employees
Although often overlooked, the workplace is a key driver of employee productivity. For the workplace and the employees to constantly suit each other, the workplace must be seen as a constant work in progress.
As described above, to be productivity-driven, the design of a workplace must account for various needs of the occupants and be adaptable to changes. Therefore, the workplace should be viewed as an asset that continually is observed, tested, discussed and tweaked.
Is your workplace geared to improve employee productivity and fit the New Ways of Working? Find out in our research