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UK productivity crisis: Is the workplace the problem?

Ahead of the 2017 budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility significantly lowered its estimates for the productivity of UK workers. A decade of stagnant growth has left the UK’s productivity among the weakest in the G7 and 9% below the OECD average. But why is productivity, defined as a worker’s output per hour, so low?

Instead of looking at who is doing the work, some experts believe it’s time to focus on where the work is being done. If our workplaces are stuck in the last decade, is it any surprise that productivity hasn’t budged in ten years?

Peter Brogan, research and information manager for the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), believes it’s time for employers to have a serious think about how the workplace is evolving.

 Giving the keynote presentation at Salford Professional Development’s Innovations in Facilities Management Conference, he said: “As employees we often take the time to appraise our own performance but we never have an appraisal of the environment we are working in, and that could be the real barrier to productivity.”

Employers in both the public and private sectors have been reluctant to invest in new technology to make our workplaces more adaptable and efficient.

“Technology is being used as an enabler for change but I would go a few steps further and say that it is forcing change,” said Mr Brogan.

“New technology enables you to know your business better, to know your customers and to know your staff. If you don’t know that, you’re going to be left behind. Things like AI, automation, virtual reality and the internet of things, these are the four things that are changing facilities management.”

Despite its transformational effect, BIFM are keen to point out that technology has to be used appropriately in order to deliver benefits.

“It’s important to think about what’s right for your business, that’s the caveat for new technology, don’t just jump on the latest trend or fad. Not every office has to be like Google,” said Mr Brogan.

While many employers will not be able to copy Google exactly, there are some valuable lessons we can all learn from the tech giant.

“Google does do a lot of things right, they are focused on providing a flexible workplace and collaboration areas where people can get done what they need to do,” said Mr Brogan.

“People say Google is a technology company, but we are all technology companies now. We are all dealing in data and that’s why technology is forcing a change in FM.”

Register your interest in Salford Professional Development’s sector-leading estates and facilities conferences – here


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