The link between employee productivity and business success is well documented. It’s the reason eight out of ten executives say they’d make productivity their priority if they were CEO. But it seems many workplaces aren’t actually set up to help their employees be more productive.
Presently, only 57 per cent of employees globally feel their workplace enables them to work productively. And in the US, 60 per cent of employees report they don’t have the opportunity to do their best work at their workplace.
Every company, department, and employee works differently, so we can’t prescribe specific changes that will help everyone become more productive. But we can give employees more freedom to work in the ways that suit them best and that help them reach their optimum potential.
To my mind, that means focusing on three key ‘freedoms’ that help us to create workplaces that work for everyone.
Freedom of space
Everyone has their own way of working. Some want to plug in their headphones to focus, while others prefer the energising buzz of a busy office. Around 15 per cent of employees cite noise as the main cause of inefficiency at work, while 13 per cent say it’s a lack of quiet areas. Offering a choice of places to work – from open plan café areas to secluded pods or small, private rooms – means we can make sure everyone has their preferred option available to them.
Navigating a workspace can be simpler too. Automated, interactive screens can direct visitors or colleagues to the right room. Room displays on each floor can show visitors the way to particular meetings – not just the names of meeting rooms – or reveal which rooms are free for colleagues to get some focused work done. Overall, the workplace can be optimised, with less time spent waiting for rooms or trying to find the right one, thanks to clear signage and intelligent booking systems.
Freedom from distraction
When we talk about distraction, that doesn’t just mean background noise at your desk. The bigger productivity threat is that we get bogged down in admin jobs and random tasks that aren’t central to our role or delivering value. AI and chatbots could help avoid these jobs, which may be why 40% of large businesses will have at least one intelligent assistant or chatbot on company-owned devices over the coming year – if they aren’t there already.
But when it comes to the physical workplace itself, managing rooms and the office environment can be another source of distraction. Believe it or not, employees waste 33 minutes a day related to meetings – an opportunity cost that can quickly accumulate. Systems like Sony’s TEOS Book make it easy to find and book meeting rooms quickly, either through an existing central booking system or using interactive displays outside of a meeting room itself. No more jumping into a free meeting room only to be asked to leave 10 minutes later.
And what if we could take it further? What if you could control air conditioning, lighting, projectors, and even coffee machines through one system? Forward thinking organisations are fast incorporating these capabilities into the next generation of smart buildings, enabling real-time collaboration, efficiency and new levels of productivity.
Freedom to collaborate
If all each of us had was a list of tasks to crunch through, then we could probably work from home, all of the time. But that’s not the nature of work for many of us. Whilst flexible and remote working is clearly being empowered by the new wave of technologies entering both the home and the corporate environment, we need workspaces to serve as places for us to come together, ask questions, and collaborate. Three quarters of employees know this already, stating that they expect businesses to provide collaboration and social spaces at work.
Video conferencing and web-casting remove location limitation, allowing collaboration and streamlined communication across any number of locations, at any time. But there are changes that can be made within an office too.
If you have assigned seating, create a seating plan that places particular teams or groups in close proximity, so they can talk to each other more easily. Try changing this seating plan on a regular basis, whether to adjust to new projects or simply to mix things up – many discoveries and successful collaborations are the result of an unplanned conversation or a chance meeting. Better still empower better collaboration through the smart use of technology. Give employees and visitors the power to wirelessly mirror content to meeting room displays from their own devices – make sharing seamless.
Improving productivity starts with providing a workplace that works for everyone and that is capable of streamlining the workday. That means freedom to work in the way that we prefer, without the distractions that limit our productivity, while collaborating with the people who bring out the best in us.
 BT, People, Productivity and the Digital Workplace 2018 - https://www.globalservices.bt.com/en/aboutus/news-press/technology-delivers-workplace-productivity-boost
 Unispace, Form following Function - https://issuu.com/unispaceglobal/docs/170821_focus_report
 CBRE, Top Trends in Facilities Management 2018 - https://www.cbre.com/research-and-reports/EMEA-Major-Report---Top-Trends-In-Facilities-Management-2018