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Posted by Isobel McEwan 27 February 2018 Innovation Consultancy

It can often feel like we are obsessed with productivity. Whether in the workplace or at home, discussing the economy or organisational culture, productivity is often hailed as the ultimate goal. Yet all this talk of productivity is not necessarily making us more productive. The UK’s productivity puzzle is a case in point, with the Financial Times (FT) pointing out that in the last decade British productivity has hardly grown at all and remains ‘miserably unproductive’ compared with other countries.

In organisational culture terms, a preoccupation with productivity alone will not yield results. Without putting concrete and measurable steps in place to boost productivity levels, organisations will suffer the same fate as the UK and other economies struggling to find their way out of the productivity puzzle. Here are three methods you can employ to foster productivity in your organisation and avoid this fate.


For FastCompany contributor Leila Hock, it is dangerous for organisations to see ‘working hard’ as the most important factor leading to high productivity and ultimately success.

Hock points out that even though society is working harder than ever, this is not leading to higher rates of productivity. Hock sees the root of this problem as lying in the fact that

‘When people say they’re “working hard,” they mean they’re putting a lot of time in. What they (generally) don’t mean is that they’ve put a lot of thought into that work, or that they know what they’re working on is contributing to something important.’

Hocks sees this use of time as a measurement of productivity as harking back to an industrial age when output per time unit was of central importance. Yet in a modern service economy where knowledge is a commodity and the role of workers markedly different, this preoccupation with using time spent ‘working hard’ as an indicator of productivity is at best misleading and at its worst harmful.

She points out that finding an alternative measurement of productivity can be tough, as putting a measurement on the value added by an employee or looking at what contribution the work you completed today makes to the wider team lacks a clear unit of measurement. Yet putting the effort and resources into developing and monitoring such indicators is an important step on the road to boosting productivity in the long term.


Although the demands of the modern economy often mean that an individual is working on several projects at any one time, multitasking can in fact be counterproductive. Just as emails and mobile phone notifications are fatally distracting and impact negatively upon productivity rates, trying to spread your employees focus too thinly can impact overall productivity.  

According to an article by The Huffington Post, ‘according to research by the American Psychological Association, shifting between tasks can cost you up to 40% of productive time.’ It is also suggested that though many organisations see the ability to multitask as a positive trait and desirable competency, such a mentality is at odds with the evidence which suggests that multitasking does not actually result in more or better work being done. 

At an organisational level, allowing team members the space and scope to prioritise their own workload is one way of creating environment in which they can achieve optimal focus. By fostering a mutual relationship of trust which allows employees and employer to agree a strategy, organisations can move beyond the notion that multitasking and piling on the workload is the best route to success.  


 A lot is written about different working spaces and how these can impact productivity. At the individual level, whether you work best in a quiet, simple space or a more open, collaborative setting is highly dependent on personal preference and people are becoming increasingly attuned to which suits them best.

However, at the organisational level it becomes much more difficult to accommodate this highly personal preference. Organisations renowned for being innovative and forward thinking such as Google and Apple have opted for open and co-working spaces, but recognising that this shift doesn’t suit everyone goes a long way to building an environment which fosters productivity.  

For Business2Community contributor Sam Davtyan, accommodating the multitude of different working styles likely to occur in a diverse team of people is important for improving productivity. Recognising that one space might not work for certain individuals is the first step and then striking a balance can often be the best way to move forward. Davtyan writes: ‘social workspaces where collaboration is encouraged need to be presented in combination with areas that allow employees to hunker down and hyper focus on their tasks’ if productivity is to be encouraged at an optimal level.

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