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How your Office Ping Pong Table Can Get in the Way of Increased Productivity

By Paul Burrin, Vice President, Sage People

Paul Burrin, Vice President, Sage People

Is the office ping pong table a waste of space? New research from Sage People has found that employees find many fringe benefits, like office games, a distraction. Almost half of those surveyed think that having a ping pong or pool table in the office actually decreases productivity. Instead, employees say they value having the opportunity to have their voices heard by management and more flexible working structures.

The productivity problem

Companies spending money on benefits that aren’t adding value to the employee experience is just one example of how businesses are failing to understand their workforce. But why is it important to know more about the people working for you? Aside from building trust, having a better relationship, and making for a more enjoyable work experience, the impact on productivity can be huge. The IMF has found that productivity growth has slowed so much since 2008 that GDP in advanced economies should have been five per cent higher today–this represents a big opportunity for companies to get ahead of the competition by assessing the productivity in their own working environments. Instead though, the research, ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’ found that only 37 percent of respondents think they’re highly productive in their role, with respondents admitting that they are productive for less than 30 hours per week -that’s only 3.75 days out of a five-day working week. This is clearly an extensive issue.

What employees find valuable

So what can businesses do to reduce the productivity drain? What employees really value is being heard. The research found that for 65 percent of U.S. workers, feeling valued and recognized is the most important part of their day-to-day work experience which has a direct impact on productivity. Unfortunately, 48 percent of workers have never been asked by their employer about their workplace experiences and only 12 percent are asked on a regular basis what can be done to improve their experiences in order to improve productivity.

"Feeling valued and recognized is the most important part of employees’ day-to-day work experience which has a direct impact on productivity"

Finding out what your employees really want is a long debated issue. We hear endless stories about HR trying to get employee feedback through tools such as annual engagement surveys, but this alone isn’t enough and is far from effective. Only 20 percent of U.S. respondents see annual employee satisfaction surveys as very important to their experience at work. In fact, 19 percent actually see employee satisfaction surveys as a distraction, and put off completing them, making them another contributing factor to decreasing productivity in the workplace.

Developing and managing workforce experiences have the power to drastically improve recruitment, staff retention, and productivity, but it’s clear that many companies are stuck in outdated management practices.

Addressing the employee experience gap for better performance

Companies need to realize that careful listening and a personalized approach are key to improving workforce experiences. Half of the U.S. respondents feel that the HR team could increase the value it provides to employees by improving communications and feedback between employees and organization leadership. For example, by regularly talking with employees, HR would find out that almost half of the employees would like them to focus on ways to improve health and wellness in the workplace.

Examples like these show where companies can use modern HR and People technology to gather immediate feedback around key events in an employee’s journey. Then, for those businesses willing to take feedback from their employees and embrace new ideas, new technology can provide businesses with the means and flexibility to design, implement, and measure workforce experiences that make a tangible difference to employee acquisition, retention, and productivity. The more employers can make each day a more engaging experience, the better overall effect it will have on the business and people themselves.

The apparent disconnect between the employee and employer in what constitutes a valued and productive workforce experience, is alarming. Organizations must make it a priority to know what motivates and drives their people, and work with them to create positive workplace experiences, where people are doing their best work, and have a good sense of wellbeing–while improving productivity and a company’s bottom line in the meantime.

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