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9 January 2017 | Martin Read

In truth, the first fruits of The Stoddart Review - you’ll read about ‘The Workplace Advantage’ elsewhere in our pages this month – does not unearth any particularly startling new gem of an idea. 

But what it does, and effectively so, is bring to the fore what many have known for years – that the office is where the productivity of knowledge workers can be materially affected, each individual worker given every possible advantage to do the best that they can. Looking at the office as first and foremost a productivity tool can lead to genuinely valuable conversations and potentially radical new ways of working.

This is important. Despite the many other solutions to the UK’s curiously poor levels of productivity having been discussed for years, little has really changed. ‘The Workplace Advantage’ reminds us that productivity in this country is 18 per cent down on that of other members in the G7 group of advanced economies. Indeed, you have to put a question mark against that use of the word ‘advanced’ when you realise just how wide that gap is.

What’s astonishing is that the office, the very place in which so much knowledge work continues to be carried out despite increasing levels of flexible working, has lasted until now without being tagged as a potential solution. 

The impact of a one per cent productivity boost to the UK economy as a result of focusing on workplace is, of course, no more than an aspiration. But it’s important to set this goal. When just half of respondents to the ongoing Leesman workplace effectiveness survey say that the place in which they work makes them productive, you’re surely on to something. The heating matters; the lighting matters; the ability to meet or concentrate in bespoke environments matters. Hell, everything that facilities management does for the workforce matters. If anything, one per cent is a very conservative figure.

Let’s be under no illusions that ‘The Workplace Advantage’ is anything other than a start. But let’s also resolve to take the fight further. The hard work in promoting the report’s message starts now. You’re welcome to join us.

Martin Read is editor of FM World