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Office environment’s key role in boosting productivity

Improving productivity has been a persistent problem for the UK economy. The most recent figures for the first quarter of…

Office environment’s key role in boosting productivity

1st October 2018


Improving productivity has been a persistent problem for the UK economy. The most recent figures for the first quarter of this year showed that productivity fell and continues to lag the rates achieved before the financial crisis. The Centre for Cities think-tank is the latest body to try and address this issue, suggesting in the summer that the focus should be on boosting exporters and improving skills in the regions.

Certainly enhancing the skills of the UK’s workforce is a common refrain among experts seeking a solution for this issue and very much allied to this is increasing recognition that the working environment could provide part of the answer to this challenge.  A recent survey by Peldon Rose found 91% of UK workers believe their office environment directly impacts their productivity[1] and Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index concluded that good office design could boost employee productivity by 20%.[2]

Productivity is essentially about optimal use of time, space and resources and establishing a workplace environment that exactly meets the needs of your business and its employees to maximise productivity requires research not luck.

Below Jitesh Patel, CEO of Peldon Rose, leading workplace consultants, outlines how evaluating the office environment and involving employees will ensure businesses are taking the right office space and investing wisely on things which the business and its people both want and need. These essential changes can help make staff more engaged, inspired and ultimately productive.

Have a clear vision

If you are planning to make worthwhile changes to your workplace, it is vital to ensure that senior management are in place and committed from the outset.  Board level executives – ideally including the CEO – need to create a clear vision of what the office transformation is trying to achieve and what success looks like. 

Whether it is boosting productivity, reducing the number of staff absences, staff turnover and overheads or simply creating an office environment that is a pleasure to be in, having a clear, well-communicated vision of what the office transformation is trying to achieve will keep the project team focused on the things that are going to help realise this goal.  The on-going support and leadership of senior executives also gives a clear message to employees that the transformation is a business priority and helps to ensure fast decision making and that the project will be delivered on-time and within budget. 

Conduct an in-depth analysis

For an office transformation to truly release optimal productivity, a workplace evaluation with input from the backroom to the boardroom is required.  This in-depth analysis should take into consideration the future goals of the business as well as evaluating what the business and its people truly want and need from the workspace.

 A space utilisation study reveals how the current workplace performs and identifies inefficiencies in how the space is used.  By monitoring the workspace, you can create a heat map showing hot and cold areas of office use, highlighting opportunities for improvement. This could reveal that the business might be paying for under-utilised meeting rooms – spaces which could be repurposed to create multi-purpose areas suitable for informal meetings, quiet working or team break-outs.  This activity will ensure money is spent wisely and that businesses are paying for the amount of space required rather than what they think they need.  Kantar TNS for example, saved nearly £500k in rent per annum when a Peldon Rose workplace evaluation revealed the amount of unused office space they no longer required.

A workplace consultation can also boost productivity by identifying where employees will work most effectively. For example, it might be that two teams which would benefit from being closer together are currently at opposite ends of the office, and putting them next to each other would save time and facilitate idea-sharing.

Engage with employees

Understanding what a workforce needs is the only way to ensure the success of office transformations. Employees have to feel listened to and considered in order for them to get onboard and adapt well to any changes in the workplace. What staff consider to be a requirement which would boost their happiness and productivity may be quite different to what the board thinks the workforce needs. Left unaddressed, small irritations in a working environment can escalate to become a contributing factor to an employee wanting to leave a job. An insufficient number of bathrooms, no shower and changing facilities, poor office acoustics, lack of meeting facilities or break out areas, or unreliable temperature air conditioning are among some of the biggest gripes of office workers in the UK.

Some of these issues may be beyond the immediate control of business leaders, but listening to and understanding the needs of the workforce instead of taking a one size fits all approach or gut feel is more likely to produce an improved and more productive working environment.  Engage directly with staff through a variety of methods, including focus workshops, collaborative sessions, interviews, online surveys and day-in-the life studies. This will help create a meaningful strategy around the company’s greatest assets – its people.

Be driven by data

The full workplace analysis will yield a treasure trove of data to use, which will form the basis of the office transformation plan.  Useful data may be both qualitative, for example information derived from staff surveys, and quantitative, looking at how much time staff spend on certain tasks versus others. A thorough workplace consultation will consider how much time is wasted by staff searching  for, or trying to book, meeting rooms, or how much time is lost to sickness due to musculoskeletal issues stemming from a lack of ergonomic desk-based facilities for example.  Anything that can be analysed in relation to the office design, and its impact on staff and productivity, should be considered.  The more forensic the evaluation, the greater the chance that the office transformation will be a success.

Make the process collaborative

Collaboration with employees should continue into the office transformation stage. Change management is a valuable tool for supporting your staff through the inevitable transition of their behaviours and habits. Discussing proposed changes with staff throughout the process can help to motivate them and ensure they are fully on board with their new workspace. It might well be there are several design options available for consideration and discussion. Getting feedback from employees will prove a useful exercise in both making them feel a part of the process, as well as identify potential problems that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

An office environment that is pleasant to work in, minimises stress and is a place in which staff feel they can do their jobs to the best of their ability will result in a workforce where both morale and productivity are higher.  Businesses that take the time to properly plan for their office transformation will be the ones to reap these benefits, now and in the future.

[1] Peldon Rose Happy Office Survey.  April 2017


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