Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians are distracted at work on a regular basis, and many estimate they lose up to two hours of productivity each day due to disturbances in the workplace, according to a new survey.
Respondents to the survey, executed by polling agency Maru/Blue on behalf of iQ Offices, listed chatty colleagues, open-concept offices, unassigned workspaces and time-wasting meetings as the biggest barriers to productivity.
Almost two-thirds of respondents — 64 per cent — said they would even accept a lower salary if it meant working in a “conveniently-located … beautiful work-space designed for productivity and employee satisfaction.”
To collect the data, researchers asked 1,524 Canadians a wide array of questions about productivity in the workplace, and the results showed focus was a problem for employees across Canada.
Respondents indicated when considering a new job, top priorities included a convenient location and the option for occasional remote work. The ideal workspace is “attractively-designed” with natural light and optional private workspaces.
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However, in Kane Willmott’s experience, many Canadian workspaces don’t reflect these priorities. He’s the co-founder of iQ Offices, a Canadian co-working company.
“The trendy office style … with open concepts and recreation areas, ping pong tables and shuffleboards … we’re going there because we thought [that’s] what it would take to attract talent,” he said. “The reality is, these are distractions.
A workplace filled with distractions can have a drastic impact on overall productivity.
According to the survey, 73 per cent of Canadians estimate they could save up to two hours a day if they worked in an office that was designed to minimize distraction, and 38 per cent estimate they could get the usual seven hours of work completed in six.
“Canadians overwhelmingly highlight design, physical environment productivity challenges like nomad seating arrangements, noise and distracting open concept design, ahead of other workload-related challenges, such as excessive email … or unexpected extra work,” said Willmott.
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“We’re creatures of habit. We want to have a predictable work environment,” he said. “That being said, we don’t want to just sit at a desk for eight hours a day either. We need to create areas to rejuvenate.”
In Willmott’s opinion, Canadian employees are looking for an office that allows them to have their own space while still offering flexibility for changes of scenery throughout the day.
Ownership of the space
Productivity will improve if employees take ownership of their work and their workspace, said Baba Vishwanath, professor of human resources and management at McMaster University.
This requires leadership that will invite employees to offer feedback on the tasks they’re given and the space they’re given to execute them.
“As a leader, you need to make sure your employees own their work,” said Vishwanath. “They have to see an alignment between their individual interests and the organization’s interests.”
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The interests of an organization are largely communicated by the structural layout, decorations and design of its workspace.
Employers should create a way for employees to offer feedback — it can be a survey or a focus group or something completely different — which will “build involvement” in their own work design.
“You can be physically present, but not mentally present,” he said.
For many employers, changing a whole workspace will be too big a task. Willmott says there are still some easy ways to make a workplace more productive in the short term.
“If you have a ping pong table or a shuffleboard, swap those out … for an area where people can go and rejuvenate,” he said. “Quiet areas … allows employees to reset throughout the day.”
Willmott also recommends adding sound-deadening materials to rooms throughout the office, which will make rejuvenation easier.
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“Use movable walls … to create visual privacy and visual variety,” he said. “Noise-cancelling headphones are huge, too.”
Willmott is also an advocate for “bringing the outside in.” He recommends adding plants to the space and opening any windows that are able to open.
“Even positioning your desk in a space [with] natural light … that’s scientifically proven to boost productivity,” he said.
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