How to support workplace productivity; and why you should

busy woman at photocopier

There are few hotter topics in the workplace at present than wellbeing and productivity; with the latter being of particular focus.

As we transit into a world of work which looks to become a hybrid blend of agile, remote and somewhat demanding workers; it is vital that employers do all they can to ensure that their employees have the necessary resources and support in place to enable them to work as productively and efficiently as possible. The pressure is well and truly on to make the necessary changes and investments in our workplaces.

There are many aspects that can impact workplace productivity. Our research at Advanced Workplace Associates has identified six main factors that most strongly correlate with team performance. These factors are all about human relationships – the cohesiveness of teams, the way they are supervised, having a clear vision and team goals, sharing information, communicating beyond team boundaries and trust within and between teams. These are the bedrocks, and if you gear the workplace, management, leadership, policies and behaviours around maximising them, then team performance will flourish and the business will reap the benefits.

For me, there are several crucial qualities that make a workforce productive.

These are:

  • Being surrounded by a great team of people who are reliable, trustworthy and committed to results and success
  • The ability to feel comfortable and accommodated within the workplace – from lighting and temperature to noise levels and the refreshments on offer!
  • A choice of environments in which to complete different tasks and the minimal possible number of barriers or distractions – the workplace experience should be as “frictionless” as possible

These are easy to say (and run the risk of sounding simplistic) but aren’t always easy to deliver, unless you really pay attention to them. For example – does your organisation actively promote and practice the demonstration of trustworthy behaviour? It is a critical foundation for effective teamwork, but many people simply leave it to chance.

As with everything at work, it’s all about balance and variety. If the workplace doesn’t offer options for different styles of work, how can the workforce complete the wide array of tasks they need to undertake? Think of a research team that need to focus and concentrate – they’ll need quiet places to work away from distractions. Equally, think of a creative marketing agency, who would need spaces to work collaboratively with teams and clients – perhaps more relaxed and less formal spaces to foster creativity.

It’s easier than you may think to provide a productive workplace. The first step is to keep open communication and dialogue with staff. If people are involved in delivering the workplace experience, they’ll be more likely to commit to protecting it. Involve them in the development of workplace protocols, so they’re impassioned by them and understand the reasoning behind them. Pay attention to what your staff want, and more importantly – what they need to do their jobs. Think also about supplying brain-fuel to your teams, healthy snacks, good quality water (hydration is key!) and great coffee!

The workplace has been evolving for many years, and no more so than within the rise of flexible, agile approaches to work. In recent years, we have seen an unprecedented boom in ‘flexi-working’ – with an increase of almost quarter of a million people over the past decade. By 2020, it’s predicted that up to half of the full-time UK workforce will be working remotely. So, with this in mind, the aim must be to provide a supportive environment for all office users – both those that continue to work “traditionally” and those that are less frequent visitors to the office. In this way, the activities that truly need face time can be done in the best environment and everyone feels that they belong when they come into the office.

Finally, the arrival of millennials into the workplace and the war for talent requires everyone to consider their “workplace experience” and the degree to which it meets the needs of all the generations within the organisation. While the millennials might not want the same things as earlier generations, they still need to build their networks, learn about the organisation and figure out how to survive in the world of work. While their older colleagues achieved all of this by working alongside experienced colleagues, millennials could be in danger of missing out if they (or those supporting them) spend insufficient time with each other.

Remember that many people still like coming into a physical workspace, for socialising and networking, as well as having a focused area to work and collaborate in. So, the key is to invest in creating a space that works for all demographics, without focusing on one alone.

About the author

Karen Plum is a senior workplace consultant, responsible for research and development activities undertaken under Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA)’s Workplace Performance Innovation Network (PIN). A business studies graduate, Karen spent her earlier career in HR before joining AWA in 1998. In her consulting work, Karen specialises in working as a senior coach with leaders, supporting them in creating the conditions to bring about strategic change in the way their people work. Karen is an expert in agile working, having helped countless organisations transition into new ways of working. 

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