How a comfortable workplace can support productivity

Businesses will have various goals to achieve and obstacles to overcome this year. For many firms, one of the key objectives will be to increase productivity, something that has been particularly challenging for the UK economy as a whole in recent times.

There have been signs of improvement on this front, but organisations will have to continue working and coming up with new strategies to ensure this trend continues.

The productivity picture

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the three months to September 2017, UK labour productivity increased by 0.9 per cent from the previous quarter. This was the biggest rise for more than six years, since the second quarter of 2011.

There were various explanations put forward for the increase, including stronger growth in factory output and the economy generating approximately the same amount of output for fewer hours worked.

Despite the positive quarterly result, productivity is still well below levels recorded before the financial crisis.

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said: "I'd take one quarter's numbers with a pinch of salt. It's not at all bad news but difficult to embrace as a big change just yet in what is a disappointing history since [the] crisis."

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, added: "The rebound in productivity in the third quarter is highly welcome, but it needs to be seen in the context of a particularly poor first-half performance."

In a survey published in January 2018, Deloitte revealed that chief financial officers at large private companies saw weak UK productivity as the third biggest concern for their businesses, behind Brexit and low demand in the UK.

It's clear that there is still substantial scope for organisations across the UK to contribute to greater economic output, so what can businesses do to help their workforce be productive?

Provide a comfortable workplace

To be as productive as possible, workers need to be in an environment that is comfortable and allows them to concentrate. If a workplace is messy or chaotic, it can create unwelcome distractions for employees.

One particularly important consideration when it comes to creating the best possible workspace for your staff is the temperature, especially during the summer and winter months. It's difficult for people to concentrate when they are uncomfortably hot or cold, so employers need to look for ways to manage the temperature without their bills or energy consumption getting out of control.

A potential solution is natural ventilation via roof stacks, which can provide cool, fresh air from outside during periods of warm weather. In the colder months, the system makes the most of the heat already in the room and produced by occupants, lighting and appliances, mixing it with the air coming in from outside.

As well as helping people to feel comfortable in the workplace, this is a more energy-efficient option than relying on radiators or electrical devices to heat the incoming air. Showing that your organisation is taking action to maximise its energy efficiency can strengthen your brand reputation and help employee engagement, which also contributes to higher productivity.

There are various other strategies that can help people to feel comfortable and productive in the workplace, such as increasing the supply of natural lighting, providing ergonomic office furniture and creating areas where people can take a break from their regular working routine.

Other approaches to workplace productivity

Increasing the productivity of your organisation can seem like a daunting challenge with no easy solution. However, there are various strategies you can try to help people enhance their output. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Encourage staff to take breaks so they are not at risk of mental or physical burnout.
  • Get rid of unproductive meetings that take up a lot of time and provide negligible results.
  • Try out new working methods such as 'hot-desking' and holding standing meetings.
  • Invite people to come forward with their own suggestions and ideas that could contribute to more efficient working.

If you are able to find the right combination of physical environment and effective workplace practices, it could lead to some exciting results for your business this year and in the future.


Image credit: iStock/shironosov