Despite the latest ONS results on productivity showing signs of improvements, the UK continues to lag behind many other global economies. The figures revealed that output per hour worked in the UK was 16.6 percentage points below the averages of the G7 countries. Specifically, UK productivity was 22.2 points behind the US, 22.7 points behind France, and 26.7 behind Germany – the biggest gap recorded with a fellow G7 country.
While progress has been made, more still needs to be done to increase UK productivity levels in line with other leading nations. However, for many businesses, this is easier said than done. Productivity is an abstract concept that is often looked at in a global context. However, in real terms, productivity levels of each country largely boils down to the performance of individual employees and its workforce as a whole. So, the challenge that businesses in the UK are facing is how to increase their output and get their employees to work better and more efficiently.
While there are many factors contributing to a more productive and engaged workforce, one concept that is becoming increasingly popular is a focus on happiness within the workplace. On the whole, a happier workforce is likely to yield higher productivity. The question facing UK businesses is what steps can they take to make employees more engaged, more motivated and more efficient so that they simply “work better”?
Shake up your office space
Our recent research into workplace happiness, revealed that organisations are rethinking how the design of the workplace impacts health, wellbeing and productivity. In response, one in seven employers have developed ergonomic workplaces that make optimal use of available space, improve efficiency and promotes mobility. The ideal agile workplace provides a range of working spaces, from collaboration zones to quiet booths, that enable employees to work in an environment that best suits their needs and empowers them to get the job done in the most productive and efficient way.
Another benefit of the agile workplace is that it is designed to encourage more collaboration between people that might not work together otherwise. In our research, many employees highlighted that the people they work and interact with daily contribute to how happy they are at work. Overall, four in five UK employees believe they have good relationships with people on their immediate team and over a third (38%) highlighted inter-team relationships as an important driver for happiness and interest at work. Modern work environments are introducing the flexibility for people to choose their seat each day based on the work they need to do or who they need to work with. This changing mind-set helps foster interaction and collaboration which in turn works to enhance the workplace environment and fostering a positive office culture.
Empower your employees
Agile working is an approach to work that focuses on maximum flexibility and minimum constraints so organisations should also examine how they can remove any barriers that stop employees from getting work done efficiently. Offering flexible working hours, equipping staff with mobile-enabled devices or laptops so they are mobile and developing appropriate remote working policies are all processes that aim to optimise the delivery and performance of staff. Concerns that remote working without direct physical supervision leads to a decline in productivity appear to be increasingly unfounded. There are certain roles where remote working and full flexibility cannot be offered. However, advancements in technology enable employees to work effectively away from the traditional office environment by sharing, communicating and collaborating seamlessly and securely. What’s important is that the needs of employees are balanced with business objectives. Productivity isn’t determined by location, but is by motivation. A business with the capability of offering remote working will benefit from increased productivity and happier employees in the long-term.
The bottom line
The focus on UK productivity is unlikely to disappear, with the UK Government recently announcing a £23bn Productivity Investment Fund to boost economic output. Investing in infrastructure and innovation at a national level is part of the answer to combatting stagnating productivity. However, each business also needs to look at its own internal policies and culture to identify steps that they can take to boost efficiency. Agile working is one example of a change that organisations can make to foster collaboration, creativity and output. At the same time, it can also help organisations build happier workforces that are more engaged, motivated and likely to deliver results.