Looking ahead to transform workplace productivity

December 8, 2017

An inconvenient truth: almost one in two employees do not believe that their workplace supports them working productively.


We need to understand why and then transform the workplace from a liability to an asset.

The Leesman Index asks respondents to what extent the workplace provided “enables me to work productively”. To help understand what exactly we’re testing, try transposing the words “work productively” with the central responsibility that employee has. So, if a lawyer: “my workplace enables me to solve my client’s legal issues”. Or an info sec specialist at a bank: “my workplace enables me to protect the bank from hackers’ intent on bringing us down”.

With 45% responding negatively, there is a major concern that companies are missing the point when it comes to supporting productive working.


Understanding the problem

As such, Leesman has been heavily involved in supporting the Stoddart Review over the past two years. The Stoddart Review aims to get the topic matter on corporate leadership teams’ radars. The pitch: your workplace impacts your profit and loss. So what? Every exec knows that workplace hits bottom line profitability. But our industry stands accused of failing to show how workplace design and management can proactively contribute to, rather than merely deplete, corporate profitability.

The reason given for repeatedly failing to engage boards in this debate by architecture, design, workplace management and FM? The executive boards are not interested.

So, the Stoddart Review seeks to take a packaged case directly to the board, not arguing for board representation, but instead, for what they should be doing themselves – leveraging their physical and service infrastructures as key performance assets to increase organisational effectiveness, revenues and margins.


Use of space

One of the key strands of the Stoddart Review was a three-day open house where workplace thinkers presented to a review panel, of which I was a member. What quickly became clear is that our industry is confused and embarrassed by its lack of understanding of productivity.

This was most evident in the numerous presentations that ignored the request to discuss employee productivity and instead explored the “productivity of space”. Too often we heard that more people in less space equalled higher productivity and that since measuring employee productivity was difficult, we must concentrate on making places more productive. It’s not surprising then that boards were disinterested: the savings available are marginal. But employee productivity became a brick wall which most Stoddart Review open house presenters just hit head on.

Cognitive psychologists and accident investigators call this “target fixation” – a visual fixation with the obstacle rather than the safe space around it, causing motorcyclists, pilots and five-year-olds riding bicycles without stabilisers for the first time, to collide with the object they have ample space and time to navigate safely. Skiers are taught to look not at the trees, but the space between the trees. Motorcyclists to look through the turn, not just at the apex. Workplace professionals are crashing into the problem rather than looking for the route around it.


The problem of productivity

Workplaces should be more productive. It’s an inconvenient obstacle that just 55% of the 215,000+ employees in the 1,600+ workplaces Leesman has measured since 2010 agree that their workplaces support their personal productivity. That’s concerning, no?

Workplaces have many reasons for being: to help build a sense of collective endeavour, reinforce brand values, or facilitate greater knowledge transfer. But underlining this all must surely be a fundamental basic of enabling an employee to do the job they are employed to do… productively? Executive boards have lost sight of this, in the main because their advisors have seen that it’s easier to manage the cost or occupant efficiency of space, than it is to face up to a workplace failing in its key reason for being. Workplace professionals have to come to terms with this and see the incredible opportunity to engage organisations in strategies to improve on those statistics and transform the global value proposition of workplaces.

The Stoddart Review still has much work to do to get to those executive boards. But those behind the study have the desire to try to do so. And initial findings are that boards do look ahead, not just at the apex, are interested and want to know more about employee productivity. Workplace professionals need to start looking forward, not just in front.


About the author

Tim OldmanTim Oldman is the founder and CEO of Leesman, which specialises in how workplaces support employee and organisational performance.

Source: Leesman Index





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