How much can an office environment impact productivity?

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Oct 2015

01 Oct 2015 • by Changeboard Team

Can it really make a difference?

A well-designed office environment can be a powerful asset in attracting new talent to a company – a factor that is becoming increasingly important to National Grid at a time when the engineering industry faces a perfect storm. Some of the UK’s most experienced engineers are nearing retirement while there are insufficient numbers entering the profession to meet industry demand. On top of that, with many companies now able to lift recruitment freezes and start hiring again owing to an improved economic environment, competition to hire the best graduates is fierce. 

Now is the time for companies to look at their staff investment strategies to help promote a happy workplace that fosters staff loyalty and increased productivity. At National Grid an important aspect of this is to create an office space that reflects the culture and values of our organisation so that current employees feel proud to work here and future generations are inspired to be associated with our company. 

Many employers are also experiencing a shift in the attitudes of the workforce, which is an important point to keep in mind when approaching any office redesign. There’s a growing need for a range of flexible spaces to suit different styles of working. Employees across different industries and sectors increasingly see it as important to have the ability to make choices about how they work in their workplace. A ‘one size fits all’ attitude to office space will no longer do. 


Multifunctional office space

At National Grid the Human Resources team worked closely with our Corporate Property team and infrastructure services firm AECOM. The aim of the project was create an office space that would enable employees to work more effectively so that their efficiency, ability to connect with each other and wellbeing were boosted. Of course, the redesign would also deliver a flexible working environment to reflect employee needs.

Importantly for our business, we hoped that the desired outcome of a happy workforce would lead to increased productivity and bottom-line benefits. It quickly became apparent that the redesign had made a huge difference to staff productivity – and both National Grid and AECOM wanted to prove it. For some time, there’s been a complex debate around the best way to measure productivity in an office environment, particularly as our work is knowledge-based.

That’s why we sought to objectively measure the link between employee productivity and workplace design. The study included measurement techniques such as a work performance survey of over 300 staff, focus groups, interviews, observational studies and cognitive performance tests capturing data on creativity, reasoning and cognitive flexibility. 

Results speak volumes

The results of the study proved to be very positive, with staff showing an 8% increase in performance following the redesign, equating to potentially £20 million gained through increased productivity. In addition to these objective measurements, employees reported an 8% increase in their comfort and satisfaction levels. 

Staff also gained back 5% in productive time due to improved access to meeting spaces. There has also been an additional 5% increase in employees’ collaborative activity and cross-team working, equating to two hours more collaborative activity per person per week. 

As well as delivering clear benefits to staff, the results show significant financial benefits. The figures from the study could be translated as having a total financial impact of up to £30 million per annum, comprising an £8-10 million reduction in annual operating costs in addition to the £20 million gained through employees’ improved productivity levels.

With such improvements to staff performance and wellbeing following the redesign, we’ve proven that our environment is not just a ‘nice to have’ but it actually adds value to the business. I am certain that that our office will play an active role in helping to attract new talent to National Grid.