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The puzzle of productivity

Blog from Rory Murphy, Commercial Director, VINCI Facilities

It would be impossible throughout the latter part of 2018 to ignore the endless debate around Workplace. The BIFM has now formally morphed into the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) and November also saw us celebrate Workplace Week London with a series of presentations and discussions across various workplaces in the capital.

The incorporation of Workplace into the new BIFM branding is designed to ‘raise the status of our profession and help you take your career further’. The linkage between managing and operating assets and the enhancement of both customer and employee experience is at the heart of the push for workplace recognition. A professional that can manage and develop the working environment and all that goes towards enhancing employee engagement and productivity is surely a valuable resource and so the status and worth of these new workplace professionals is assured…. Or is it?

The productivity of UK PLC continues to lag way behind many of our European neighbours and has experienced a slump in productivity growth since the financial crisis that shows no sign of coming to an end.

Productivity is traditionally measured as the value of goods and services produced for each hour worked. The average British worker produced 16 per cent less on average than our equivalents in the Group of Seven leading economies in 2016, per data from the Office for National Statistics.

But why should we worry? We should worry because achieving higher growth in productivity — or output per hour worked — is the countries way of raising living standards and allowing government to have the resources to improve public services or cut taxes.

A report by the FourFront Group published in November looked at this very issue of productivity and challenged some of the perceived wisdom around the impact of the workplace. 

The FourFront report surveyed 120 individuals around the globe and looked at four key drivers of workplace productivity, namely Leadership, Wellness, Environment and Technology. Overwhelmingly the biggest driver for increasing productivity was found to be leadership with over 53 per cent believing that leadership was the biggest influence on performance whilst less than a fifth named environment, tech or wellness as being important.

So what does this tell us about this emerging role of workplace managers? The survey reinforces the complexity of driving productivity and whilst not the most significant workplace driver our ability to influence the environment, technology and wellness are all positive aspects where we can bring our knowledge, skills and influence.

Wellness has been an emerging trend over the last few years and many businesses are focussing on not just the physical but also the psychological impacts of the business structures that they create. As facilities managers we have developed a strong understanding over the past decade of the impact of the environmental aspects of improved performance with temperature, acoustics, lighting and comfort all key issues for employee performance.

Technology will continue to play a significant part in productivity going forward although the research did show a growing tension between the human and the tech in terms of the stresses being created through new ‘flexible’ ways of working. The importance of data and managing workflow remained a strong ingredient and once again this is an area where facilities managers will remain strong.

Workplace clearly remains an important aspect for employees but those of us that lead our sector need to constantly make the link between our role and the emerging challenge of increasing productivity. 

The workplace professional of the future needs to understand that clear leadership and clarity of purpose drives employee productivity more than any physical factors of their environment. The challenge will be to fully embrace their organisations vision and mission to ensure service delivery fully aligns and supports the organisational outcomes and aims.


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