Today got me thinking about productivity. I had one of those “super productive” days. I got up, did my yoga, sorted the house before work, used my commute to meditate and read my favourite book, got on with my work tasks for the day, managed to grab lunch away from my desk, and caught up with some people in the office I hadn’t seen for a while. All of this before 3pm.
On the commute home I wrote a to-do list for the rest of the week, finished a report, then picked up my daughter and her friend from drama club, collected the ironing, walked the dog, made dinner, prepped my child for her school trip tomorrow, bathed and put her to bed, and even watched my favourite programme. Just before bed I am writing this blog, tired, but a very happy Barbora.
I am not bragging here about how much I can do in a day. There are quieter days and there are days where things don’t go as planned. But the majority of my days are like this. How do I get everything done with a smile on my face and calm spirit? Am I organised and productive? Maybe… Or maybe I just had a good and restful sleep the night before and enjoyed doing things I like during the weekend, which supercharged me for the week ahead.
Productivity is a hot topic these days. You’re most likely to hear it thrown around in meetings, seminars and surveys. After the pandemic, it’s coined as the anecdote to our economic troubles. And we all want to become more productive.
What is Productivity?
In general, productivity is the measure of production against efficiency. It is the state of being able to produce outputs at a high quality and quick speed. Different people will have different measures and different things will be measured in different ways. For example you could measure a team of people by the amount of hours they spend on a project, the number of objectives achieved or the money spent. Some even use cutting-edge software to measure productivity, automating productivity reports…
The diagram below provides an equation that sets out a clear criteria many organisations can work with.
An Employees Perspective
As it is Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s have a look at this more closely from an employee’s point of view to understand their perspective. Let’s take Jane as an example, solid and reliable middle-level manager, working in a Head Office as a Business Support Manager. Jane spends around 2 hours per day commuting to the office. With an average of 9 hours at work (1 hour for lunch) she is away from home 11 hours per day. She has 2 young children and a husband who works locally. It is really handy for Jane, as he does most of the school pick-ups and drop offs.
Jane’s company does have and promotes their recently implemented Working from Home Policy. They like to call themselves an “Agile Business”. But there are many caveats and restrictions on working from home. Those old-fashioned embedded habits of watching the “Teams Status” to make sure it’s active does not feel flexible, nor does it contribute to a healthy company culture. So much so that Jane feels guilty every time she works from home. The business has not yet fully grasped the Agile approach and still continues to monitor the inputs, more than the outputs. Jane is classed as an “average worker” when it comes to performance reviews and has been overlooked for promotions a few times. Her manager simply believes that Jane’s heart is not in it because she’s not in the office everyday…
Jane also looks after her elderly parent and has to visit them a few times a week. All of this running around, commuting and not having any time for herself leaves Jane suffering with a number of health issues; such as high blood pressure, anxiety and seasonal allergies.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to attack companies or their systems in any way. I just believe in a more holistic approach – one that is a better and simpler way for companies to invest in their existing workforce and retain them, rather then spending bucks on recruitment and sick pay. According to latest Government figures, work related stress and mental illnesses now account for over 50% of work absences and cost British businesses £26 billion per annum. Recruitment cost using a recruitment agency can average 15-30% of your new hire’s salary. Having a high turnover rate does not bode well on the business…
Back to Jane. She is actually a super woman, capable of multitasking, running household, parent care and her job. She really likes what she does, but her energy, creativity and inspiration has been suppressed by rigid work hours, mistrust of her line manager, who isn’t interested in finding out about Jane as a person. And quite possibly, the line manager has very similar challenges and obstacles in their personal lives too. And so it goes…
So, to conclude, what is the solution?
I believe in Agile Working and a Holistic Approach. It is not just about allowing people to work from home; agile working is a culture where an organisation empowers its people to work wherever, whenever and however they choose. Agile working is created by a positive company culture – a culture that promotes openness, trust, positive mental attitude and removing boundaries between staff and their goals.
I bet you, if Jane was empowered to structure her hours around childcare and parent care, cut back on commuting by half, this would increase her productivity. If her line manager understood her and gave her certain autonomy, she would improve her health, sense of happiness and job satisfaction. Finally, as she is now more involved in the business and has the time and space to understand its goals, the caring Jane would want to make a positive impact and support the company to succeed!
Recently, we have seen many organisations struggle to retain their staff and to recruit. Perhaps they’re missing a trick? Every organisation should take time to understand what your employees really feel about the company culture and the working environment. We support organisations with canvassing this through our Voice of the Customer Programme (as employees are customers too), and can turn these insights into a tangible action plan. Find out more here and get in touch: Voice of the Customer – Continuous Improvement Projects Ltd (ciprojectsltd.co.uk)