Publicist, Francesca Stainer, attended the Productivity Summit on Thursday 31st January. Here were her key takeaways.
Communication is Key
Fran Millar, Director of Business Operations & Head of Winning Behaviours at Sky, explained how three parts of the brain function, the ‘chimp’, the ‘computer’ and the ‘human’. The ‘chimp’ is where information goes first to be processed and is very impulsive. She explained that when you are aware you are not told something, your ‘chimp’ automatically goes into defence mode and assumes the worst. This is why it is key that businesses are transparent and communicative in order to not create a toxic atmosphere.
Health and Wellbeing are instrumental in productive workplaces
James Murray, Managing Director at Healthy Workplace spoke about the impact of wellbeing programmes on healthy and productive workplaces.
- 2/3 of business don’t have a health and wellbeing strategy and of those that do 94% don’t differentiate their programme from other organizations to generate a competitive advantage.
- 7000 steps a day reduces absence by 1/3 and if the heart rate is measured daily it reduces by ½
He encouraged businesses to use wellbeing and health as measures of success and creating responsibility and accountability around improving their wellbeing.
How to engage your employees
Jane Leadbetter, Head of L&D at McArthurGlen Group Fellow at CIPD explained how she worked to engage their employees:
- Pay well or fairly – it will always come down to pay if the employee doesn’t feel like they’re getting a good deal
- Create opportunities to network and build relations with others within the business, whether this be a canteen for everyone to eat their lunch together, or training and development programmes
- Clarity around purpose and strategic objectives (why are you here)
- Create a place where people want to be e.g. creating break out spaces for people to eat, talk and socialise
- Be kind to each other (do you need to send that email at 10 pm? Because if you do you have ruined that person’s evening)
Four Day Weeks Work
Working a four-day week rather than a five-day week can boost productivity by 20%, according to Christine Brotherton, Head of People and Capability at financial services company Perpetual Guardian.
“People say there’s a connection between productivity and engagement so we wanted to test the connection between the two in the trial,” she said. “And test if the carrot of one day off with full pay is enough for us to be conscious and deliberate with our work.”
Results of the trail meant that job performance was maintained over four days, staff stress levels were down engagement levels up and work/life balance up. “It shows if the carrot is big enough it can make us think more about processes and systems and how they work,” she said, adding that the organisation has now implemented it as a permanent opt-in policy for staff.
Christine made sure that the trail was staff led and their productivity goals and decisions made them feel empowered and valued, which was the goal rather than it being about flexible working.
Improve sleep to improve productivity
“We spend 36% of our life sleeping, so sleep is the single-most time-consuming thing we do,” said Aarti Jagannath, Associate Professor and David Phillips fellow at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute within the University of Oxford. However, people downplay its importance she added, pointing to the “Elon Musk effect” of the Tesla leader who claims to operate on around four hours sleep a night.
Instead, lack of sleep leads to loss of attention and impulsivity and is closely linked to mental health, Jagannath said.
Jagannath explained that people have different chronotypes, meaning they function best at different times of the day
“We don’t all tell the same time. We have different preferences genetically encoded in us,” she said, referring to the “morning type” and the “evening type”. She recommended employers tailor shift patterns to suit the sleep type of their workers because she finds that wellbeing and sleep quality increased.
“We can tailor shifts to different chronotypes and clock times,” she said. “So allowing them to work hours that better suit their bodies has a big impact.”
Feeding the mind and body
Lifestyle-related diseases cost £20 billion a year in lost productivity, said Sophie Medlin, Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, pointing to the cost of workers’ poor diets.
She explained how if someone is just 1% dehydrated this can impair memory and reduce focus and productivity.
Medlin recommended several ways employers can encourage healthier eating habits among employees. These included awareness and signposting, availability of healthy snacks, provision of kitchen facilities to give employees choice, creating a healthy food culture, and promoting healthier choices for employees working at night.
“People shouldn’t feel ashamed at work about what they’re eating. Food culture in offices needs a lot of work.”
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