7 October 2015

Jabra outlines the challenges of working productively in an office

Source: Jabra research report.
Audio and communications technology specialist Jabra says there are challenges in creating productive working environments when staff have to battle with distractions, poorly organised meetings and ineffective technology in the course of the typical working day.

In research report Productivity at the Office – Challenges 2015 Jabra notes that businesses are investing in time and tools for skilled office-based staff (knowledge workers) to effectively collaborate and concentrate. However, employees face distractions throughout the working day, attend unproductive meetings, and struggle to use technology that was originally intended to improve productivity.

Key findings:

 More than a third (36%) think office meetings diminish productivity
 Close to half (46%) think noise levels are the most distracting issue in the office
 Over a quarter (28%) are annoyed by too many emails, though 78% would rather send an email than make a call to resolve an issue

The Productivity at the Office report reveals that most workers question the productivity of collaborative workspaces that businesses have created to achieve efficiencies. Most are situated in open plan offices (34%), which is also thought of as the least productive environment (35% agree).

The report also reveals the failure of knowledge workers to achieve productive collaboration time. Over half (51%) agreed that meetings without direction or a clear agenda led to wasted meeting time, while 32% cited lack of decision-making. Three in 10 respondents (31%) cite lack of follow-up, 26% a lack of preparation and 25% the effect of latecomers.

In a conference call scenario, some of the most annoying issues are due to sound, whether it is not being able to hear people’s voices, irrelevant background noise, connection issues, overall audio quality, not knowing if speakerphones are working as intended or if other participants can hear the speaker. This presents a paradox: the majority of knowledge workers want to attend meetings despite these issues because of the perceived productivity gain to the organisation, even though 36% claim meetings diminish their personal productivity.

Productivity of time spent at their desk is also crucial: workers spend most of their time at their desks, over 66% of the working week (over six times more than in meetings), so it is where the most significant productivity gains can be made or lost. However, knowledge workers deal with up to 17 distractions during work, many of which are caused by other people.

The most common distractions are noise levels (46%), interruptions from colleagues (43%), and emails (28%). People also value environmental factors that could be better controlled, such as temperature, air quality, and lack of privacy. Re-thinking desk space for time spent concentrating could eliminate a host of issues that negatively impact productivity at work.

Holger Reisinger, SVP, Jabra, comments: “Productivity is critical to business success and remaining competitive. Every allocated resource should be used to its best advantage and to the most benefit to the organisation, with processes and tools in place to make sure this happens. Whilst many organisations have designed workspaces to facilitate better collaboration, and invested in technology to bring people together in meetings or on calls, this approach is not consistently delivering the intended benefits. Businesses need to re-evaluate their knowledge workers’ needs to ensure productivity throughout the working day if they are to meet commercial goals.”

The report also highlights how limited productivity at work affects a company’s ability to attract and retain staff, as distractions in the workplace significantly affect work-life balance. Today, a significant proportion of knowledge workers are struggling to complete their tasks during the working day. About a third (36%) are completing tasks outside of work hours and the office in order to make sure tasks are completed ahead of the next working day.

To facilitate meetings, technology such as smart boards, speakerphones, project management software, or mind-mapping or brainstorming software is often used. Yet, implementing these tools is often counterintuitive to productivity, for example when time has to be spent setting up conference calls. The time and investment wasted is significant: 25% of meetings are delayed due to technical and/or user issues, and on average 2.7 minutes of every meeting is lost as a result.

Depending on the number of attendees at the meeting, the cost to the business can escalate. Whilst 71% of meetings take place in one place, 29% are across multiple locations so collaborative technology is crucial. However, knowledge workers struggle to use it, causing significant frustrations that five in ten say are annoying.

Reisinger concluded: “Businesses have to facilitate a unique balance of collaboration and concentration. To date they have made great strides in enabling workers to achieve more through collaboration and they must do this whilst ensuring employees don’t lose time trying to use ineffective technology. Otherwise, organisations are wasting resources each time a worker fails to conduct a conference call or meeting. Whilst this remains a challenge, businesses also have to consider achieving productivity in employee’s concentration time. An adaptable workspace depending on the individual, task or job role is the new way of working businesses must accommodate.”


Read the TechTrade Asia blog post about Jabra's latest collaboration device

*About the Productivity at the Office report is a survey of over 2,449 workers aged 18 to 65 across US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, conducted in May 2015 as part of Jabra’s New Ways of Working initiative.