Productivity in the workplace

Absence is one of many factors eating away at our productivity at work. Honeydew’s mission is ultimately to help organisations improve productivity – through better attendance, healthier workforce and more engaged employees. That’s why the Stoddard Review’s paper on physical workplaces as a factor in the productivity equation was such an interesting read.

UK productivity lags behind

Duncan Weldon wrote in a foreword to The Workplace Advantage, that “UK productivity is around 18% below the average level of the other members of the Group of Seven advanced economies. While productivity growth has slowed everywhere and there is clearly a global problem, it is undeniable that there is also a long-running UK-specific issue at work.”

Can physical workplaces offer a solution?

The ailment is well known. We reported on the trend already in 2015, when it was said that “productivity growth has been the missing ingredient of Britain’s economic recovery”. However, it seems that the solution keeps eluding us. Despite years of experts talking about the problem, there has been no change. Are physical workplaces a part of the puzzle dragging us down?

1 in 2 employees held back by their workplace

The Workplace Advantage found that 1 in 2 employees did not think their workplace enhanced their productivity. That suggests that there are definite improvements to be achieved by re-thinking the workplace. Often, the workplace is set up once and then not reviewed until a lease is up for renewal or the workforce outgrows the capacity. Optimising the workplace usually means maximising capacity, which could be contrary to maximising productivity.

User first

In its conclusion, the reviewers suggest that workplace design should be people-centric. As is the mainstream approach to software and tech design these days, the user’s needs should come first. Often the social spaces are the first to be cut as they are ‘non-productive’ use of square footage. However, the social interactions among colleagues are a “catalyst for collaboration”.

Good tools for better productivity

The Workplace Advantage report also mentions the importance of choosing the right technology. Giving your staff good tools is crucial to their job satisfaction and engagement. Gone – we hope – are the days of clunky corporate software applications. We hail the future of user friendly, beautifully designed technology that makes the day-to-day easier.

What would 1% productivity gain look like?

Weldon goes on to project “what would a 1% productivity gain mean in the real world? It may not sound like much, but achieved across the UK macroeconomy it would add almost £20 billion to our national output. Such an increase could reduce the annual government deficit by around £8 billion, add £250 a year to the average wage packet and increase annual profits across the country by almost £3.5 billion. Small rises in productivity are far from trivial.”

This makes a good case for reviewing the workplace and considering if it is fit for purpose. Is it time to phase out the noisy open plan office?


One way to address productivity is to start tracking your absence levels. Engage is a great tool for that!