In a recent rummage through some old research papers, we unearthed a brilliant paper from the RICS Property in the Economy Series entitled 'Workplace Design and Productivity: Are They Inextricably Linked?'.
Written by Brian Thompson and Drivers Jonas and published in July 2008, the paper explores the evolution of workplace design, its impact on output given various physical and psychosocial attributes and how that impact could be measured. The article might be seven-years-old but its findings still ring true today.
In the introduction, the authors write: "It is predicted that the concept [of productivity in the workplace] is here to stay, certainly so in the minds of business managers. Consequently, those with a stake in the property sector must rise to the challenge and develop methodologies that inform the business manager and perhaps also provide support to business cases involving investment in real estate".
Fast forward to 2015 and we can see the strides already made – and continuing to be made – by modern organisations that care about human capital. Those organisations will win not just through improved productivity, but in the staff retention battle too. It's hard to think today why an organisation wouldn't care about these things and treat workplace planning and design as an integral part of any response to a property challenge, rather than as just something tagged on at the end of the project. But, incredibly, that kind of non-progressive thinking still exists in New Zealand.
We know from our work that managers always look for some proof to back investment and Thompson and Jonas argued in their conclusions that "the economic case to enhance productivity in the workplace is easily made". The problem they highlighted however is that "there is no standardised methodology to measure productivity and feed the inputs into business cases to support investment in new and improved working environments".
That's no excuse for managers not to invest, or course. And it's a damn good reason why they should engage independent experts like us who can help them build the case for investment. If anyone is still in any doubt about the relationship between workplace and productivity, just rewind and read the article. It's a gem.