The Leader Magazine

MAR 2018

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f lexible/agile working The findings make clear that there is no single style of working that suits everyone or applies all the time. Working flexibly should be defined as giving staff variety in how and where they work, whether it's the ability to work from home or outside the workplace sometimes, or having an office layout that offers a variety of spaces and configurations. t he workplace drivers of productivity A strong correlation exists between a positive culture and practices and a successful business. The survey showed that two elements are found in all profitable, productive and innovative businesses: the flexibility for employees to reconfigure their space, and workstations that promote healthy postures. Characteristics of the most profitable Focusing specifically on the characteristics that differentiate high- and low-profitability companies, our study identified a positive link with wellness. Highly profitable companies have mentally and physically fit staff, lights that change their tone during the day, and the kind of culture that embraces the noise, social interaction and movement that having, for example, a ping-pong table brings (for the 7 percent of those in our study that have them). Looking at the characteristics of innovative companies, we see many different things coming into play compared to profitable companies, such as employees' being encouraged to take in fresh air regularly. There is only one characteristic shared between profitable and innovative companies: the availability of sit/stand desks. Highly productive and innovative companies, however, share many more characteristics. Their employees are provided: fresh air, quiet areas and private spaces, supportive digital tools, drink fridges, and healthy snacks. Perhaps most important, employees are consulted on how they want their space used. It is only in the most innovative companies that employees are given the flexibility to go home and finish tasks. In practical terms, company success is linked to a physical workplace that promotes and supports wellbeing, combined with a consultative and permissive management attitude. Practices that don't make a difference Conversely, the survey threw up a number of aspects that are the least likely differentiators between high- and low-performing companies. The two practices that were shown to make the least difference are desk-sharing and having a clear-desk policy. Businesses utilising desk-sharing need to offer many ways of overcoming the distractions that accompany it. The benefits for both the business and the individual tend to be overlooked or are unknown to employees. Other factors that are the least likely differentiators between high- and low-performing companies are: employees having their own desk, cycle parking, showers, and break-out or collaboration spaces. The implication of these findings may be that these elements have become too commonplace to make a difference. For example, having a place to park a bike or take a shower might now be an everyday staff expectation, irrespective of the type of workplace. Those working at different sites most days find more things highly distracting than those who work out of a single office. As this method of working becomes even more commonplace, employers need to bear in mind that such staff have more workplace experiences to compare and, thus, are likely to become even more demanding. Nearly half the respondents believe that workplace design has a notable impact on their decision to stay with an employer or not. So, importantly, business success comes with successful work environments. Good work is more than just achieving tasks; it's about wellness, the experience and human contribution. Workplaces need to be a platform to support all of this. This opinion is supported by recent work from Imperial College London and Atkins, which suggests that if all offices in the UK were upgraded and workplace productivity enhanced by 5 to 8 percent, it could have a £12 billion to £20 billion (0.9 percent) 2 impact on the UK GDP. e ach business is unique The study suggests that company productivity can be significantly enhanced if organisations learn from their most innovative and creative peers. Increasingly, these leading companies are focusing as much on a healthy workplace culture as they are on the physical workspace. As the eminent Stanford University Professor James March said in 1988, 'Organisations face a large number of problems of about equal importance, but only a few solutions. The chance of finding a solution to a particular problem is small.' So stimulating employees to think productively, and looking at a problem from many perspectives to come up with a breadth of ideas – some of which are quite unconventional and often unique – will be essential to enhancing profitability. . t H e le A de R MARCH 2018 39 Jane Hales is managing partner at Sapio Research, a global market research consultancy based in London. 1. Professor Cary Cooper drawing upon research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management's annual Absence Management Report 2015. 2. Applying design thinking to boost workplace productivity by 5 to 8 percent could contribute up to £20 billion to GDP. However, this figure only considers absenteeism and sick leave. It does not include the cost of recruiting new people or the effects of presenteeism, given the difficulties of collecting and validating this data. Calculations based on ONS Business estimates, Regional GVA Estimates, HSE and Land Registry data 2015 and Atkins research 2016. "Businesses utilising desk-sharing need to offer many ways of overcoming the distractions that accompany it."

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