18 Apr 2016

How Flexible Working and Smart Buildings Can Help Solve the UK's Productivity Crisis

by Matt Salter,

Earlier this year it was announced that the UK’s productivity levels had widened to the worst levels since records began. Output per hour worked in the UK was an astonishing 18 percentage points below the average for the remaining members of the G7.

These figures should worry any organisation and you can see why government are concerned, which is one of the reasons for launching the digital economy strategy.

A decrease in productivity means that we’re getting less for our money and are being outpaced by overseas organisations. It means that to generate products and revenue, doing business in the UK is less efficient compared to other locations. It means we’re not working to our full potential, the cost of doing business is higher and investment decisions could seem more attractive in other locations that offer better productivity.

There is no single magic bullet to a problem like this, it will have a variety of root causes and solutions. But organisations need to do everything they can to improve productivity.

Business leaders and boards often look at the bottom line but fail to take into account the importance of providing suitable facilities to get the most out a vital asset: their employees.

It’s a legal requirement to offer flexible working now, but there’s a difference between being compliant and embracing a change that can improve performance and employee satisfaction.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has said that despite lengthy commute times, many aren’t working flexibly – particularly in London. With an average of 31 minutes of commuting each way nationally, in London it goes up to 47 minutes. That’s a good 60 – 90 minutes of average travelling each day. 5 – 7.5 hours a week. 20 – 30 hours per month. It all adds up.

Add to this traffic frustration and chronically crowded public transport at rush hours, do you wonder why your employees arrive sweaty, angry and not very productive?

We’ve been talking about being more intelligent with commuting patterns and working lives for a long time.  Even in 1945 there was advertising to try and reduce crowding at peak times by encouraging passengers to stagger their travel. It’s common sense: trying to all commute at the same time makes for unpleasant journeys and crowded transit. It’s also not the most efficient use of a mass transit system, having to build capacity for peaks that happen twice a day.

You could be forgiven for the message not working back in the 1940s – and most jobs required being in a particular location. And it’s not like you could just send an email. But those days are gone.

Even with peak and off-peak pricing, together with the congestion charge, there’s been very little change in behaviour because our workplaces haven’t changed their behaviour. 60 years later, we’ve not solved the problem!

Flexible workers are happier workers but there is still far too much focus on traditional 9-5 work cultures,” said David D’Souza, Head of CIPD London. “An ongoing challenge of businesses placing too much value on time spent at the desk and not enough on people’s actual outputs.”

I couldn’t agree more.

That’s why the CIPD is calling for an increase in flexible working and have launched a policy programme entitled Opportunity through work: A manifesto for London. I wholeheartedly agree with this campaign and the stats they provide offer compelling reasons to embrace agile working.

Satisfaction is higher. More report an increase in their work-life balance. And 30% say they have lower stress.

These stats prove that flexible working makes for happier, more productive employees. Less stressed employees, are better employees. It’s time organisations started not just accepting but encouraging flexible working.

In part two of my blog on productivity, I’ll look at the ways in which smart buildings can assist in making flexible working a reality#FutureOfWork #FutureWorkPlace.  However, in the meantime, if you would like to know more about smart buildings, I encourage you to connect with us via twitter, LinkedIn or please comment below.