The Puzzle of Productivity: 3 Client Questions

Ware Malcomb partnered with The United Workplace and WORKTECH Academy on workplace productivity research. The resulting report, The Puzzle of Productivity, is based on an international study:

  • Analyzing online questionnaire responses from 120 global companies
  • Literature review of workplace productivity and performance
  • Interviews with end user clients
  • Discussion of the findings by an international academic panel

Corporations and the marketplace most often define organizational performance in industrial era terms like profit and output. They measure financial performance with metrics like share price, sales target and billing hours. However, there is an increasing move to include assessments on human and environmental factors such as employee engagement, satisfaction, culture, well-being and social responsibility.

Our clients acknowledge this paradox and have come to us with three important questions.

What can I do as a leader to impact my organization’s productivity?

It turns out, as the leader there is much you can do. The research findings identified the quality of leadership as having an overwhelming impact on the level of productivity in a company. Inspiring 54% of survey respondents stated leadership improved performance, while workplace environment rated second. So, in a word to our workplace leaders, keep your leadership and your team’s work environment inspirational.

‘I’m not surprised that leadership trumps all else. Take a look at how start-ups have done phenomenal things in garages. You can successfully put across management practices even when the physical environment is not reinforcing the message. But workplace design is nevertheless part of the package that influences how people think and behave. If the office is rundown, it suggests managers don’t care.’ – Dr. Sally Augustin

Which workplace metrics really matter?

The proliferation of data from numerous sources increasingly challenges our ability to sort out the actionable from the superfluous. Quantitative information or hard data, informs the “what,” while qualitative data or soft data helps to uncover the “why.”

Understanding the basic metrics of your workplace should include not only the headcounts, rentable square foot and square foot per person, but also square foot per workstation, which is increasingly important in desk sharing environments. Benchmarks from which to assess your current work environment include:

  • Collaboration to desk seats
  • Internal and external employee mobility
  • Percentage of various activities conducted in the office
  • Physical participation in meetings

Employee experience and satisfaction as measured by Employee Opinion Surveys (EOSs) and other survey tools track how organizations are measuring up in moments that matter. In a recent Leesman report, over 79% of global respondents ranked refreshment facilities as an important workplace feature. Employees in experiential organizations reflect on their contribution not their productivity.

What is the one thing that we could do to impact our productivity?

Impacting productivity is a team sport and is influenced by numerous factors. This research uncovered four levers to investigate:

Technology enables workers to be less place-dependent and more productive whereever they work. New, distributed and flexible ways of working have the potential to raise performance significantly. Get your technology right and realize a productivity increase.

Wellness is tied to performance by the simple gestures of giving individuals more choice and control in their work environment. This is heavily supported by academic environmental psychology literature. The nature of choice  is going to vary by organization. Figure out what choice makes sense for your teams.

Environments that support wellness and provide space settings for employees to do their best work are tied in academic literature to raising levels of wellness. Workplace environmental factors including acoustics, fresh air, lighting, biophilia and variable lighting controls play a role in raising levels of well-being and subsequently productivity. Incorporating plants and filtered water are two easy ways to get started.

Leadership as a significant factor in productivity takes us full circle in this discussion. Leaders’ influence is conclusively regarded as a dominant factor in raising performance. Our leaders’ holistic and integrated views can significantly impact organizational performance.

‘Leaders who create adaptive systems are complex thinkers. They understand the fact that you can’t control; you have to steer because you are dealing with something dynamic.’ – Professor Fiona Kerr, University of Adelaide

Check out the latest workplace projects in Ware Malcomb’s portfolio here. Our Workplace Strategy team is available to answer your productivity questions.