Over the last three years, office suppliers Viking have been conducting research in the UK to see what employees need to perform at their best. Involving 14,000 workers, the findings have revealed some of the biggest areas for improvement in the modern-day workforce. Viking enlisted the help of industry experts to see how realistic some of these demands from employees are, and what businesses should be doing to improve office productivity.
A popular trend in the research shows that a great number of employees are not happy with their weekly working hours. Over half (51%) of those surveyed said they would rather work longer hours as part of a four-day week. It would seem the traditional office nine-to-five needs a rethink too, as the ideal working day was revealed to be 8 am to 6 pm. Continuing the theme of wanting more time at home, 60% of people said that they would want to spend some portion of their week working from home.
Despite workers wanting more time at home, it would seem current working days aren’t long enough for everyone to get work done, with 2/3 saying they work through their lunch breaks at least once a week. So, a very high percentage of the workforce aren’t happy with their working week, and experts believe the solution to this is offering more flexible hours.
David Chauldron Ph.D., Managing Partner at Organized Change (LINK) believes that reducing working weeks down to four days could do more damage than good. He said “There is a reason for an eight-hour day, as studies have shown increased fatigue and mistakes after working longer. These issues should be assessed to see how a longer workday might increase these problems.”
Dr. Sa’ad Ali, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Worcester agrees. He told Viking “work-life balance might be impacted negatively by increasing the number of hours Monday to Thursday for some individuals, but others might substantially benefit from this.”
With longer working days and shorter weeks having different effects on employees’ motivation, the key is flexibility. Giving employees some freedom to structure their own working week will help increase workplace productivity.
In recent years, the potential issues with mental health in the workplace have become increasingly prominent. This is evident in Viking’s research, with over 2/3 of managers saying they have had no helpful training with regards to employee’s mental health. Managers are left unequipped to deal with an issue. That is more widespread than you might anticipate; 65% of managers say they have been approached with regards to mental health issues.
6/10 workers said they have negative thoughts about work weekly. Feeding into this statistic, over half said they regularly work over their contracted hours, and 43% said they feel an unpleasant level of pressure to succeed at least once a week.
As this data suggests, people are being affected by their working conditions. Mental health is something that should be taken seriously and is badly affecting employees’ productivity. One obvious solution to this is increasing awareness.
Stuart Hearn, CEO at Clear Review said: “Managers should encourage their employees to open up about stress and work-related anxiety, creating a culture of transparency and open discussion.”
Peter Holmes HR Expert at Wirehouse Employer Services, believes in a similar approach, highlighting the link between financial wellbeing and productivity. He said:
“Providing access to a financial advisor, to assist with debts, pensions, etc could also help reduce employee stress, be an unusual but highly useful employee benefit and assist in staff retention whilst significantly assisting employees.”
Ensuring employees are made to feel comfortable coming forward about these issues and have the necessary support when they do should be really important to businesses.
It isn’t just mental health that can be an issue in the office. People are becoming more aware of their physical health, particularly those who spend a lot of time at their desk. 58% of people said they spend more than five hours a day at their desk.
This is raising health concerns amongst employees. 8/10 said they’re worried about the effects sitting at their desk all day will have on their health, and 1/3 feel they don’t do enough to protect their health.
There is a lot that can be done to improve people’s physical health and therefore help boost office productivity. Given that 43% saying they don’t feel informed about protecting their health, an option is to introduce company policies on maintaining good health in the workplace.
Peter Holmes believes there are more managers can be done to improve physical health:
“Employers should provide information to their employees on the provisions of eye tests if they are classed as a display screen equipment user. Display screen users are entitled to a free eye test and the employer has to pay for corrective lenses and a frame.”
Stuart Hearn added that encouraging employers to take regular short breaks from their desk will improve their physical health:
“A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that employees should get up once every half an hour for a break to stretch their legs.”
Procrastination is something that has affected us all throughout our working lives, and too much procrastination amongst employees in the office is bad news for businesses. Research reveals that as smartphones become increasingly dominant in our lives, social media usage is becoming an issue at work.
Less than 15% people said they stay off social media and other mobile apps while they’re at work, leaving the door open to high levels of procrastination. However, banning social media completely could lead to employees feeling untrusted and unmotivated. It would seem that most employees aren’t aware of the policies surrounding social media at work, with 51% saying they either don’t have any, or their company is unclear about rules on social media.
Introducing policies that are both clear and fair will make sure employees know where the business stands on social media use in work.
Peter Holmes suggests businesses should “have a sensible policy on the amount of usage. Justify the policy and have a bespoke policy which meets the needs for that specific business rather than a bland and generic policy.”
Encourage employees to not only follow these policies but understand why they’re beneficial to the business, cutting down on costly procrastination in the process.
The research also shows that the environment people work in has a big impact on their mental health, with one common trend suggesting art in the office is a great move for any business. 50% think that art reduces workplace stress, and 53% said that art would make them happier at work.
These figures show introducing art to the office could also be a great way to boost both morale and productivity, although Peter Holmes believes companies should put some thought into this. He said:
“If the artwork is simply generic, with perhaps motivational words added to it, then it can often do more harm than good. If the thought has been given to the art, be it a sculpture, painting or graphic then this can improve the wellbeing of staff, especially if placed in the right location, and assisting with putting employees in the right frame of mind for work.”
Put some thought into the environment your employees are working in, ask people what they would like to see in the office. Showing you care about providing a positive working environment will no doubt have a positive effect on mentality and, ultimately, productivity.