02 December 2019 | Hannah Wilson and Matthew Tucker
Doctors Hannah Wilson and Matthew Tucker discuss the academic research on workplace productivity.
Reviewing literature on productivity, the few articles that dealt directly with the physical environment examined how careful consideration of human needs can contribute to organisational benefits.
Five aspects of performance may contribute to organisational productivity:
- Individual - creativity and concentration;
- Team - interaction and information-sharing;
- Organisational - culture change and risk control);
- HR - absenteeism and retention; and
- External performance - supporting image and customer satisfaction.
Academic Barry Haynes says workplace factors such as office layout, comfort, interaction and distraction can influence productivity. But how and by how much? It's not just the presence of a coffee machine in social zones or bean bags that boost productivity.
Kurt Lewins' field theory notes - behaviour is a consequence of the interaction between person and environment - shows stress arises when a person's needs are not met by the environment. This affects health, wellbeing and mood.
The effects on productivity may be hard to measure but enabling improvements in core related skills might offer the opportunity to understand individual task efficiency, which boosts organisational productivity.
Research focuses on absenteeism, staff turnover and general perceived productivity, but we have the opportunity to dig deeper.
What about differences in employees needs dependent on workplace activities?
Consideration of employees' task-specific needs is crucial to determine the greatest increase in productivity. As an example, those in safety-critical, decision-making roles, and those performing repetitive data entry tasks would both benefit from a reduction in fatigue but at differing levels impacting organisational productivity.
Hannah Wilson and Matthew Tucker at Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University