It’s the most important contributor to a company’s success, yet it is not completely understood, and is almost impossible to measure.
Quite frankly, Facility Managers aren’t very good at dealing with things we can’t measure, so productivity usually takes a back seat to other measurables, such as ‘Cost per Sq.Ft.’, ‘Sq. Ft. per person’, ‘Move Cost per person’ and many others we can influence to generate cost savings for our employer.
While these costs may seem substantial, accommodations costs typically only represent 5-10% of the total cost of retaining the average employee when salary, benefits, overheads, and other non-accommodations costs are factored in.
This means a small increase in employee productivity has more impact on the bottom line than a larger decrease in accommodations costs, and as long as your company can benefit from increased productivity, it deserves attention as a high impact way to improve the bottom line. Unfortunately, it can’t be readily measured. This means it can’t be quantified when preparing business cases, particularly when trying to justify costs such as renovations, re-arrangements or new system furniture. The fallback is to justify these costs based on reduced relocation costs and new layouts that save space – a very round-about way to achieve results.
In discussing this difficult issue recently with a colleague, he outlined an interesting example that points to the link between the office layout, furniture, finishes and productivity. No he doesn’t have a magic formula to measuring productivity – this example uses ‘employee satisfaction’ as a proxy.
He uses surveys to gauge the satisfaction of its employees with their office accommodations. The example involves two office towers in Montreal. One building was corporately owned and managed while the other was a leased building managed by the landlord. Satisfaction surveys had consistently shown the leased building at a higher satisfaction level than the owned building, which seemed to correlate with the widely held notion that the services in leased buildings are better than those in corporately owned and managed facilities.
Eventually, reorganizations provided an opportunity to reduce leased space, and two thirds of the staff in the leased building were relocated to the owned building. The move was an opportunity to use new layouts, designs and systems furniture in the new space.
When the next satisfaction survey was conducted and the results reviewed, there was a surprising change. The satisfaction results for the leased building actually decreased, while the level of satisfaction in the owned building increased and even exceeded the leased building’s results.
My colleague tells me that this sudden change took them by surprise, and when they started to assess the results and analyze the possible reasons for the change, they could only come to one conclusion.
The change in furniture with newly designed space complete with fresh colours and finishes increased the satisfaction of the employees who relocated from the leased building to the owned building. Even more interestingly, those left behind in the leased building with older furniture, layouts and finishes were less satisfied than they had ever been, likely because their fellow workers in the owned building now had the newest and best office space while theirs had not changed.
Admittedly, there is considerable debate as to whether employee satisfaction has a great deal of impact on productivity, however this example shows the change that can result from implementing new layouts, furniture and finishes.
It should be obvious, even if not measurable, that an opportunity to re-assess the office layout from a work-flow perspective, provide more efficient ergonomic furniture and spice up the finishes can only improve productivity.
Relocations provide a built-in reason to re-assess how the office functions, determine what the current needs are, and deal with anything that makes it difficult for the employees to be as productive as possible. Even if you don’t have a planned relocation as an excuse, it may productive to review the many small changes that have happened in the office space since the last major move and implement some systematic plans to improve it, since a layout that was well planned on the move-in date may have changed quietly and invisibly over time, gradually eroding productivity.