Market Insight

Productivity and the transformation of the working environment

February 1, 2018

The working day has changed considerably in the last 30 years. From getting into your Ford Escort to travel to work for your 9-5 job, surrounded by rows of typing pools and telex machines in your naturally ventilated office, to travelling to work in cars that have more technology than the average computer had 20 years ago!

Nowadays, our agile, air-conditioned working environments boast open plan offices with espresso machines and pool tables, and we’re constantly connected via our smart phones, transforming the traditional 9-5 into something a lot more modern and flexible.

Having progressed so much, in theory we should all be working in a utopian dream, where modern offices create contented workforces, and productivity is boosted through collaboration.

Yet, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)cs (ONS), data for ‘Output per Hour’ for the service sector in the UK increased by just 0.2% in Q2 of 2017, after falling for the previous two quarters since Q2 2016.

So what is going on? Is there a more fundamental issue in the way we are living and working, and what can business do about it?

In 2014, Inrix and the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicted that the annual cost of congestion in the UK will rise by 63% by 2030 to £21 billion.

In February 2017 Sky News reported that the UK was Europe’s third most congested country, costing motorists £31 billion in direct and indirect lost time.

Inrix chief economist, Graham Cookson, hints at a solution where, in addition to road tolls and intelligent transport systems, more could be made of remote, flexible working.

According to the ONS, in 2015 86% of households had internet access compared with 57% in 2006.

So why aren’t more people working flexibly?

Part of the issue still appears to be the culture of ‘presenteeism’ – not in the context of being at work when ill, but the expectation of clock watching managers for employees to be chained to their desk for 7.5 hours a day.

So how productive is this?

In October 2017 Dr Nicole Millard, a futurologist at BT, declared that offices were ‘bad for productivity’.

In her view, this is due to the closeness of staff, frequency of interruptions (from which it takes between 8 and 23 minutes to recover, dependent on which report you read) and the “one size fits all model which actually fits nobody”.

This ‘one size fits all’ model has been inadvertently implemented by many organisations in an attempt to address the need for a more agile working environment, but without consideration for the actual needs of employees, in terms of the way in which they work.

Only by understanding the issues that employees face in their working environment – the distractions, the frustrations, the inhibitors to communication and collaboration etc., can we achieve building design that enables increased productivity

Businesses need to create an environment which supports ‘evidence based, task oriented working’ if they are to ensure that progress doesn’t impede future productivity.

How does your business support its employees, through the working environment?

  • Do you allow employees to work from home and commute outside rush hour?
  • Do you provide space for colleagues to make phone calls away from desked areas?
  • Do you have quiet spaces for uninterrupted work?
  • Do you have a good variety of meeting rooms to meet your needs?
  • Does your working environment provide social space to allow interaction between colleagues away from their desks?

If the answer is ‘No’ to any of these questions, our Occupier Advisory team could help.

Working together with you and your employees, we can help to create a working environment that embraces progress, facilitates a contented workforce and increases productivity.

For more information, contact our team for an informal discussion.