Getting the Most Out of Your Workforce in 2017

February 21, 2017

Worker productivity is a key health indicator for any organisation and ultimately has an upstream impact on national and global economies. How much your employees are able to produce in terms of goods or services in a given hour, day or week can and does fluctuate. In some organisations or within specific types of departments, productivity is easy to see and to measure. A company producing a tangible good or executing a repeatable, defined service can track and make adjustments to a process, and then measure the impact of a change on overall productivity. In service-based or sales driven organisations, measuring and improving productivity is a bigger challenge. Whether you’re in the business of manufacturing widgets or delivering consulting solutions, fostering workforce productivity should be a key organisational initiative. With a workforce that continues to be impacted by changing expectations of younger workers for more mobile and flexible work environments, here’s a look at what successful companies are doing to maximise productivity by taking a fresh look at the workspace.

Workplaces designed for increased engagement

While flexible work arrangements continue to have a positive impact on employee satisfaction and engagement, the workplace environment still has significant impact on the productivity of those who do work onsite. Flexibility within the workspace, giving employees the option to work in a variety of settings, has proven to have a positive impact on innovation and engagement. Providing spaces for collaboration as well as unassigned spaces for remote employees who may just be in the office for the day are both ways to use space to boost engagement. Employers should think of workplace design as part art and part science. Open spaces continue to be popular, but some individuals prefer or need more privacy to work, so those needs must be met through private workspaces or furniture that protects them from the distractions of an open workspace. Activity-based work stations are also on the rise because they allow employees to move about during the course of the workday, which tends to increase mood and satisfaction. More importantly, they facilitate a team-oriented environment, which leads to greater camaraderie and increased productivity for both the individual and the team.

Designing a workspace for health and wellness

Investing in employee health and wellness has long proven to be a contributor to increased productivity. Some new ways that companies are designing environments to enhance the health and wellness of employees include adding sit-stand desk areas, incorporating natural elements like living walls and allowing pets.

Studies correlate the number of available windows to workplace satisfaction. And, poor lighting can cause more than just eye strain and headaches – it has a trickle down effect on chronic back and other posture-related conditions due to the physical accommodations employees adapt to work in dim environments. Studies have shown that better lighting can decrease absenteeism by 15% and optimum lighting can increase productivity by as much as 20%.

In a recent study published in Harvard Business Review found that productivity increased by 5-6% for office workers who work in spaces rated as “good” by the EPA. Another study reported that doubling the ventilation rate from minimum standards cost on average $40 per worker annually, but improved performance by 8% – equivalent to a $6500 increase in productivity per employee.  Improved filtration, better cleaning programmes to reduce dust and allergens, and other green building initiatives have been shown to help employees improve their ability to apply knowledge to problem-solving by 172% and their ability to respond to a crisis by 97%.

Acoustics are an often-overlooked component of a productive work environment. Teams need spaces where they can openly engage in animated discussion of projects but some complex work requires quiet. For some, noise is not only a distraction, it contributes to stress, which can aggravate a number of health conditions. In addition to architectural components like sound panels and acoustic ceiling tiles to improve acoustics, sound masking is often used to philtre intrusive speech in the workplace, delivering productivity gains of from 8 to as high as 38%.

Work environments that mirror organisation culture     

Poorly designed workspaces have a negative impact on employee satisfaction and can contribute to significant productivity deficits. Companies seeking to get the most from their workforce in 2017, should adopt a culture and design an environment that will s health, well-being and engagement. When making changes to physical space, include employees in at the planning stages, be open to what they value in a workspace, and communicate the direct correlation between any specific change and the desired impact. Taking these steps will help ensure that your investment in creating an ideal workspace will yield excellent productivity in return.