Productivity Stifled by Poor Office Environments

Only half of all office workers in the UK feel their workplace allows them to be productive.

The Workplace Advantage, published by The Stoddart Review last month, found these staff are not only failing to have the impact they could on the bottom line, but also suffering from a lack of pride in their organisations.

A review of hundreds of studies of environmental factors such as temperature, ventilation and lighting found businesses could improve productivity by as much as 3.5% by focusing more on the workplace. And former BBC Newsnight economics correspondent Duncan Weldon says this improvement could add £70 billion to the UK economy.

“Small rises in productivity are far from trivial,” he explains. “A 1% productivity gain … would add almost £20 billion to our national output. Such an increase could reduce the annual government deficit by around £8 billion, add £250 a year to the average wage packet and increase annual profits across the country by almost £3.5 billion.”

Addressing the productivity gap

The latest productivity figures from the Office for National Statistics show the UK is lagging behind other G7 countries. Output per hour increased by 0.4% in the third quarter of 2016, well below the growth rates recorded before the financial crisis of 2008.

So how do businesses address the gap? If the workplace is the key to productivity, how can managers maximise its potential?

The Stoddart Review proposes the introduction of a Chief Workplace Officer – a specialist with the access and the influence to identify and exploit opportunities. The CWO may have a background in HR, facilities management or even IT. What’s important is that they recognise the impact environmental changes can have, develop business cases and ensure delivery.

BIFM chairman Julie Kortens explained: “We are seeing a change in the value placed on professionals who act as workplace facilitators, making marginal gains in performance in each and every employee. The facilities management profession brings together people, place and process to enable business, and in this new smarter, leaner, faster world, skills in this area will be a source of competitive advantage for business.”

A blueprint for success

Increased productivity and, ultimately, an improved bottom line have always been the greatest benefits of the mechanical services provided by 361 Degrees. By tailoring air conditioning and ventilation services to individual clients we can find the perfect balance for individual offices and open plan spaces, which leads to happier and healthier staff. And since the Stoddart Review noted 90% of people in the corporate environment are still entirely office-based, a workplace that attracts and retains the best staff is vital to success.

The authors presented a ‘blueprint for a productivity boost’, based on data from 200,000 workers in 63 countries, which included:

  • considering the value, not the cost, of the workplace and linking it back to productivity and profitability;
  • measuring the impact of the workspace on output
  • making the workplace a responsibility of the CEO, not CFO, and a regular part of the board agenda
  • incorporating areas to meet and work informally – in groups or alone
  • regularly assessing and adapting office layout, rather than waiting for lease renewals
  • seeing the workplace as a place to develop affinity with a company’s brand and build the community.

With a pressing need to close the productivity gap, improving the office environment could create gains businesses simply can’t afford to ignore.

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