Creating a productive workplace is central to the success of businesses, but it’s not always the number one concern of executives. In a world where every penny needs to be accounted for in black and white, concepts such as employee satisfaction and happiness can be seen as secondary to turnover, revenue and profit. However, productivity has a direct impact on the bottom line. What many businesses need is clear guidance on how to create a motivated and positive workforce without investing huge sums of money. Here are our top practical suggestions that could deliver concrete results relatively quickly.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had fairground slides and climbing walls in our offices? Well, maybe not, but the underlying principle of places like Google’s San Francisco office applies to every business. A space has to be fit for purpose: it should be reactive to what a company does and how its staff work. Indeed, that’s why Google’s quirky designs may work for creative programmers and designers. Likewise, a space should reflect more traditional values and practices when called for: many city firms want to project an image of professionalism, tradition and power – and use design to reinforce these ideals. Staff that feel comfortable and at home in their surroundings are often more productive and motivated than those in an inappropriate space – so next time you’re refurbishing or choosing a new office, think about what will work best for your staff.
If there’s one working practice that seems to polarise boardrooms, it’s flexible working. Some executives feel that allowing employees to choose alternative hours or locations is an erosion of the institution of work. On the other hand, some see it as an enlightened practice that allows the modern worker to maintain a healthy work-life balance; something which often leads to greater productivity and happiness. As always with polarised debates, the interesting nuances can sometimes get lost. Flexible working doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’, and there are small things that employers can do to make their employees’ lives easier. It could be as simple as moving the working day back by 30 minutes to avoid the morning rush and allow them to do the school run. Others are comfortable with intermittent periods when staff work from home. Every business varies, and there are certainly some roles where a presence in the office is critical; but treating a workforce like adults often pays dividends, through gratitude, trust and commitment.
Think about the senses
Even for the boss who can’t do anything about their office space, and demands that all staff are present and correct from 9 to 5, there are interesting and original ways to increase productivity. The working environment can have a huge impact on an employee’s efficiency and focus without them even realising. One such example is a Japanese study that found the scent of lemon oil reduced typing errors by 54 per cent. This is something Avanta Serviced Office Group has tried in its own serviced offices, by creating a bespoke scent and handing out diffusers to our clients. It’s a small touch, but who knows, it may make a big difference! Similarly, Avanta found that an enormous 84 per cent of employees admit to being less motivated due to the winter darkness, with 58 per cent saying this makes them look for a new job.
According to leading chronobiology expert, Dr Victoria Revell, ‘A lack of light in our daily lives has a direct effect on wellbeing. The lack of light in winter can lead to sleep problems, overeating, and lethargy.’ One thing companies could consider is installing high intensity lights in offices, or even shifting working hours to allow employees to get out in the daylight more regularly.
Businesses that care about their workers invariably produce better results through happier, more committed staff. The three ideas above are examples of actions a company can take, but there are many more, and as I’ve shown, they don’t need to cost the earth.