Office (3)

A smarter use of Britain’s office space could improve productivity by up to 3.5%, delivering a boost of up to £70 billion to the economy, according to new research.

The results are a wake-up call to business leaders, as only half (53%) of employees report that their current working environment enables them to work productively.

The study, conducted through interviews with business leaders, property experts and academics, analysed data from the Leesman Index on more than 200,000 employees in 63 countries. The findings were published in a new report, The Workplace Advantage from The Stoddart Review.

Authors of the report called for an industry-wide rethink to demonstrate and measure the value of the workplace to counter-balance the prevailing cost focus.

James Sutton, executive director, British Institute of Facilities Management said: “Raising productivity levels is essential to delivering stronger economic growth and we can see here the impact that workplace can have if it is leveraged as a strategic asset.

“Those leading the review were continually reminded that the purpose of the workplace is to make employees as effective as they can be. When workplace is hardwired into an organisation’s purpose, values and brand it drives pride and engagement and unlocks discretionary effort.”

The report proposes a blueprint for boosting productivity through multi-faceted solutions and highlights agile, high-growth firms leading the way. Its recommendations include:

  1. Learning how to re-frame business cases which focus on delivering value to the business rather than just cost – linking back to the organisation’s productivity metrics
  2. Understanding the power of measurement and analysis of activity and effectiveness. By accepting that workplace, the demands placed on it and the way it’s used are always evolving, progressive companies are regularly appraising the effectiveness of their space with the same discipline as they appraise their people
  3. Making the workplace a regular part of the board agenda and re-orientating responsibilities toward the CEO and HR Director in decisions about how to design the workspace, traditionally the remit of the CFO
  4. Recognising that workplace interventions operate on a different cycle to traditional property lease events like renewals. Smart businesses avoid committing all investment and intellectual capital in one go, instead regularly reviewing and refining the office environment
  5. Understanding the power of variety of work settings. It is the key to increasing density and is the single biggest workplace lever for direct return on investment in human capital
  6. Reversing the trend of value engineering social infrastructure out of design solutions. Places that allow people to meet informally, relax and work in different ways – whether in teams, small groups or alone – are critical as a catalyst for collaboration and social cohesion
  7. Changing the level their workplace professionals operate at so they are no longer custodians, but workplace champions. Delivering integrated business cases and acting as the interpreter between the needs of the business and the infrastructure teams that support them, the new chief workplace officer is a bridge between HR, tech, corporate real estate and facilities management and champions the employee experience
  8. Using their workplace to build community and brand affinity
Polly Plunket-Checkemian, programme director of the Stoddart Review says: “This report is a wake-up call for us all; business and the workplace industry supporting it. For some time, business has been comfortable with staff appraisals in order to link their people’s pay with performance. These tools now exist for the workplace. The Review has found that those organisations who measure, set targets and appraise the performance of their workplace are likely to deliver high performing environments.

“There is no one size fits all solution. How you choose to invest in the space, the people responsible for it and the solutions you seek from the supply chain can change overnight with one simple shift in focus. Reframe your focus to revenue per square foot, not cost per square foot. In so doing, unlock your hidden performance lever. CEOs ignore the economic potential of smarter workplaces at their peril.

She added: “We’ve found some excellent examples of best practice where firms are moving away from an approach that until now too often has been driven by cost-cutting, space-saving and an inflexible approach to office design. Agility is the key in facilities management and we need to do more to demonstrate and measure value rather than count the cost.”