Can we just get on and do some work please? 

March 15, 2017

Paul Glaister from office furniture provider Workpattern reflects on the relationship between a work environment and productivity

At Workpattern, we truly believe that well-chosen furniture and interior fittings can help a business to express its individual purpose and unique culture, alongside fostering greater and better connections and enhancing creativity.

Of course, you might expect me to say that, given the business is all about furnishing workplaces.

But when your company’s values are strong, and your people are aligned with their work, the right workspace can help make a good organisation exceptional. Without clear direction and a purpose-driven design, it can fail to deliver on its promises. I believe it is vital that a company finds the right balance between its culture and its creative workspaces. This will encourage staff to succeed and that will invariably lead to the business succeeding.

In recent years I have spoken about the benefits which business and, more importantly, employees can gain from a well-designed workspace. However, according to the Office for National Statistics’ research and understanding on how to effectively use workspaces, productivity across the UK has decreased by 17 per cent over the last decade and trails well behind other G7 countries. Savings on workspace and building services have been driving company strategy for far too long despite, for the majority of businesses, only representing around ten per cent of a business’s costs.

According to the latest State of the Estate Report from the Cabinet Office, the Government has reduced the public sector property estate by over 300,000 square metres in the last financial year, delivering savings of £176 million. This may be admirable but, by my calculations, it is only a fraction of the annual wage bill.

With much pressure on reducing costs in recent years, the reality is that very few businesses manage to design a space specific to the business and its people. This has resulted in many companies neglecting its biggest cost – people.

Staffing is by far the biggest business outlay, representing on average 90 per cent of expenditure. Research by JAC Group also suggests that the drive in reducing our real estate requirement has not only impacted the ongoing investment in quality new spaces but has actually increased the costs of property.

The Stoddart Review, published in December 2016, suggests that a mere one per cent growth in productivity will realise a growth in UK GDP of £20 billion. At the same time, data complied by The Leesman index (compiled from over 219,000 employee surveys) also tells us that only 55 per cent of employees believe their workspace enables them to be productive. If you delve deeper into the data, there are clearly some big differences between the highest performing companies in how satisfied the people are with their workspace, including how they believe it supports corporate image, workplace culture or helps to attract new talent.

We are all familiar with how retail experiences or a restaurant interior can affect our experience but, often, an office space is not given the same consideration. This is despite the majority of UK workers operating in offices.

The statistics when it comes to work environments are startling:

* 75 per cent of the hard-won newly hired top talent (those with a degree and above) leave within the first two years, citing dull management and workplaces not optimised for productive work (Source: Quora Consulting)

* The average person loses 2.1 hours a day to distractions in the office (source: Orangebox)

* According to Quora Consulting, over the next decade, there will be 13.5 million job vacancies advertised but less than 7 million people leaving schools and universities. How do we compete to get the best of a shrinking talent pool? The value of a top knowledge worker cannot be underestimated. Google estimates that the business impact of its top performers can be up to 300 times that of the average employee…

It seems clear that organisations need to utilise the things that matter and harmonise them with the needs of the workforce.

At Workpattern, we believe the workspace of the future should be a place that enables people to do their best work; putting the people, their needs and wellbeing ahead of pure business cost will drive prosperity.

Our team can help you understand design elements, share lots of evidence-based research and help you furnish your work spaces. At Workpattern, we encourage the region to really get to grips with this and welcome greater discussion. The North East has some great design consultancies that understand the needs of a workplace, and by working together, there is a great opportunity to make the region one of the most productive and creative places in the UK and beyond.


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