The productivity of UK workers has dropped back to pre-financial crisis levels, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Hourly output fell 0.5 per cent in the first three months of 2017, with the UK lagging behind major trading partners such as the US, France and Germany. There are elements we can focus on to power productivity once more though.
Whilst analysis of productivity tends to focus on the macro level, most professionals are more interested in the micro level – namely, what can we do to make a company, division or team operate more efficiently?
Typically, commentators identify three core elements that power productivity: people, technology and time.
When it comes to getting the most out of employees there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Nevertheless, a few simple management rules can help to power productivity:
• Notice good work.
• Never be too busy or bootstrapped to invest time and/or money in coaching, mentoring and training.
• Cross-train. If people understand how others in the company work, they make their own processes fit better with those of other teams, boosting efficiency.
• Make sure everyone understands the business’s goals and their own part in them.
• Try to make work enjoyable, and the workplace sociable and supportive.
• Give workers the flexibility to work their way. For most people, this means choosing working hours and places that fit in with needs like childcare.
Engaging employees in this way can deliver significant results. Businesses recording top levels of employee engagement have 21 per cent higher productivity, according to research by Gallup.
Certainly, today’s mobile technology and cloud-based services boost productivity by enabling staff to work wherever they find themselves. Gone are the days when a business trip meant being disconnected from colleagues or data.
However, these advantages also present potential dangers. Employers must be careful not to abuse the 24/7 communication possibilities of technology, otherwise they may end up with stressed, resentful staff.
Equally, technology should not eliminate face-to-face time. Our own research reveals 84 per cent of UK professionals believe remote staff should attend monthly meetings. It is also vital that employees have a conducive place to work.
Mobile technology may enable people to work from cafes or at home, but these environments can be distracting. Purpose-designed, professional workspaces enable remote workers to turn up, plug in and get productive.
Recent studies have pointed to the impact of emails and meetings on productivity, with analysts suggesting workers spend more than a quarter of each day on emails alone.
Whether employees can successfully reduce this time remains to be seen, but focusing on this issue ignores one significant destroyer of employee time – the commute. Allowing people to do their jobs closer to home gives them more space for both work and leisure. Avoiding the commute is better for work-life balance, and flexible working is proven to enhance both staff wellbeing and productivity.
With businesses facing tough competition to attract the best employees, keeping hold of good people is essential. Getting the practical details right for the people who work for you – from their working hours, to enabling them to work closer to home in convenient, professional workspace – will boost engagement and enable them to do their best work.
The result is a happier, more productive workforce – and a boosted bottom line.
Richard Morris is UK CEO of Regus