October 15, 2015
According to the Productivity at the Office report published this week by comms firm Jabra, UK businesses are continuing to find the creation of a productive workplace challenging. According to the study, although businesses are investing proactively in time and tools for skilled professional office-based staff to effectively collaborate and concentrate with each other, employees continue to face up to 17 different distractions throughout each working day, attend unproductive meetings and struggle to use technology that was originally intended to improve productivity. Amongst the key findings of the report are that 36 percent of respondents think office meetings diminish productivity, 46 percent think noise levels are the most distracting issue in the office and 28 percent are annoyed by too many emails, though 78 percent would rather send an email than make a call to resolve an issue.
The Productivity at the Office report is based on a survey of 2,449 workers aged 18-65 across the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, conducted in May 2015. It claims that most workers question the productivity of collaborative workspaces that businesses have created to achieve efficiencies: most are situated in open plan offices (34 percent), which is also thought of as the least productive environment (35 percent agree).
The report also reveals the failure of knowledge workers to organise effective collaboration time. Over half (51 percent) agree that meetings without direction or a clear agenda lead to wasted meeting time, 32 percent cite lack of decision-making, 31 percent cite lack of follow-up, 26 percent a lack of preparation and 25 percent the effect of latecomers. In a conference call scenario, some of the most annoying issues are due to sound, whether not being able to hear people’s voices, irrelevant background noise, connection issues, overall audio quality or not knowing if speakerphones are working as intended and that other participants can hear the speaker. Frustratingly for knowledge workers, these issues are also the most frequent. This presents a paradox: the majority of knowledge workers want to attend meetings despite these issues because of the perceived productivity gain to the organisation, even though 36 percent claim meetings diminish their personal productivity.
Productivity of time spent at their desk is also crucial: workers spend most of their time at their desks, over 66 percent of the working week (over 6 times more than in meetings), so it is where the most significant productivity gains can be made or lost. However, knowledge workers deal with up to 17 distractions during work, many of which are caused by other people. Most common are distracting noise levels (46 percent), interruptions from colleagues (43 percent), and number of emails (28 percent). People also value environmental factors that could be better controlled, such as temperature, air quality and lack of privacy. Re-thinking desk-space for time spent concentrating could eliminate a host of issues that negatively impact productivity at work.
Nigel Dunn, Managing Director, Jabra UK & Ireland, comments: “Productivity is critical to business success and remaining competitive. Every allocated resource should be used to its best advantage and to the most benefit to the organisation, with processes and tools in place to make sure this happens. Whilst many organisations have designed workspaces to facilitate better collaboration and have invested in technology to bring people together in meetings or on calls, this approach is not consistently delivering the intended benefits. Businesses need to re-evaluate their knowledge workers’ needs to ensure productivity throughout the working day, if they are to meet commercial goals.”
Technology is key
The report also highlights how limited productivity at work affects a company’s ability to attract and retain staff, as distractions in the workplace significantly affect work-life balance. Today, a significant proportion of knowledge workers are struggling to complete their tasks during the working day. 36 percent are completing tasks outside of working hours and the office, in order to make sure work is completed ahead of the next working day.
To facilitate meetings, technology such as smart boards, speakerphones, project management software or mind-mapping or brainstorming software is often used. Yet, implementing these tools is often counterintuitive to productivity, for example time spent setting up conference calls. The time and investment wasted is significant: 25 percent of meetings are delayed due to technical and/or user issues and on average 2.7 minutes of every meeting is lost as a result. Depending on the number of attendees at the meeting, the cost to the business can escalate. Whilst 71 percent of meetings take place in one place, 29 percent are across multiple locations so collaborative technology is crucial. However, knowledge workers struggle to use it, causing significant frustrations that five in ten say are the most annoying.
Dunn concludes: “Businesses have to facilitate a unique balance of collaboration and concentration. To date they have made great strides in enabling workers to achieve more through collaboration and they must do this whilst ensuring employees don’t lose time trying to use ineffective technology. Otherwise, organisations are wasting resources each time a worker fails to conduct a conference call or meeting. Whilst this remains a challenge, businesses also have to consider achieving productivity in employee’s concentration time. An adaptable workspace depending on the individual, task or job role is the new way of working businesses must accommodate.