Making work life better for everyone

November 5, 2019

Alex Peel, North East Area director at workplace experts Acas highlights seven ‘levers’ to increase productivity in the workplace

At Acas, we believe prevention is better than cure so we focus on helping businesses to prevent problems before they arise – in turn, improving working life for everyone in Britain.

There are now nearly 40,000 more small business in the North East since 2010. I believe it is vital to connect with local businesses and trade unions to understand the day-to-day pressures and long-term issues that organisations are facing in the North East.

I have worked in a variety of roles at Acas and have seen first-hand how we have developed and evolved to reflect the changing working practices within the North East and across the UK. Acas is a national organisation known for providing impartial and high-quality advice and support to employers and employees. We are recognised for the unique insight we have in improving workplaces and working life.

One area that Acas is helping businesses improve is productivity. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that output per hour worked has continued to decline in the UK.

It slumped by 0.5 per cent in the three months to June compared with the same period last year – the worst performance since mid-2014. This sustained period of declining labour productivity represents a continuation of the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’.

There is also an added local focus for the region. Some experts have suggested that there is an economic gap between North and South with the North East having lower productivity.

Ideas to improve the situation have included improvements to labour force skills, national infrastructure and access to finance but the workplace itself has often been overlooked as part of the solution.

The workplace is where the factors of production come together to deliver goods and services. Therefore a well-managed, efficient and innovative workplace can bring the improvements in productivity that we all want to see.

I want to help get productivity to a level where the UK can compete with the rest of the world as it will allow us to create a strong, stable economy and reap benefits to both employers and employees.

Acas has identified seven ‘levers’, sometimes overlapping and interdependent, that employers should be aware of to improve workplace productivity:

• Well designed work: jobs and work organised in ways that increase efficiency and make the most of people’s skills.
• Skilled managers: managers with the confidence and training to manage and lead effectively.
• Managing conflict effectively: systems in place to reduce the likelihood of problems arising and to deal with problems at every stage.
• Clarity about rights and responsibilities: a working environment where everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.
• Fairness: employees who feel valued and treated fairly.
• Strong employee voice: informed employees who can contribute and are listened to.
• High trust: relationships based on trust, with employers sharing information at the earliest opportunity.

These seven levers are not described in order of their importance. Many of them overlap and are interdependent. Nor do we assume that all employers will need to ‘pull’ all seven levers to improve their productivity.

Building an effective and productive workplace that engages everyone takes time and priorities vary between organisations.

Acas can provide bespoke training to any organisation’s needs and policies while advising on current employment legislation and best practice to help businesses avoid costly and lengthy employment tribunals. To views Acas’s productivity report visit
0330 123 1150

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