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Dec 20, 2016

People, Place and Productivity – fresh perspectives?


It all depends on how one looks at the situation is a question I constantly ask myself. As another year draws to a close and we weather the storms of uncertainty and volatility the workplace agenda has been a real eye-opener. It reinforced my view that apart from the well established relationship between people and place there is a third dimension. But it is no longer process a.k.a. technology but productivity.

The recent publication of the Stoddart report raises a lot of coherent arguments in support of the proposition that a well-designed and fit for purpose workplace really contributes to the productivity levels of an enterprise just as much as skills, expertise, equipment and software do. It will be interesting to see if corporate UK reacts to the insights identified by Stoddart.

It should also excite policy makers and politicians as the key conclusion is that a 1% uplift in the country’s overall productivity levels could add, according to economist Duncan Weldon, almost £20 billion more to national output. Surely this is a prize too big to ignore?

For me, it all boils down to perspectives. Thinking about this report it is hard to disagree with its findings. I have long-held the view that in trying to make this productivity connection, the workplace sector has lacked coherent arguments. Stoddart, goes a long way towards making the case that workplace is not solely about the building and how it is operated or the installed technology. It’s all about people and their ability to access their choice of tools and spaces that enables them to do a good job. Neil Usher in his contribution captures this in his usual succinct manner by saying; – “people need to feel that they can be productive but the organisation needs to believe that the workplace has motivated them” Now for those of us involved in the workplace sector this makes a lot of sense. Isn’t it a matter of following this thinking and enterprise will be able to maximise creativity, collaboration, engagement while fostering a desire to learn and grow? But what if you have a different perspective on the subject?

In fact, there are numerous stakeholders out there who may not see the links that Stoddart has articulated. I have often spoken about the need to join all the relevant dots in the conversation about making the best use of our physical workplace. During the last year it has become clear to me that as a first step in landing this argument we need to identify who are the dots, why they need joining and frame the benefits that can be gained for each dot. We operate in a complex business system that is full of silos and driven by a silo mentality accordingly we need to put ourselves in their shoes, understand their perspective and help them on a journey of understanding.

To motivate those who would benefit from a better understanding of this simple tool to shift productivity; the workplace sector needs to help them to gain a fresh perspective on the matter. Stoddart, certainly captures a lot of the points which corporate leadership ought to recognise as an unrealised, unused, if not unknown; performance lever. Can this initiative land the point that the workplace is in fact a strategic resource, a factor of production as opposed to an expense line-item and a liability? I I certainly hope so. It can certainly make a big dent in it. However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and it is up to the entire workplace sector both in the UK and globally to make a concerted effort to help enterprise leadership gain fresh perspective. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with it…

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