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Michele Piertney: The wheel of fortune and wellbeing

Monday 02 July 2018

Michele Piertney, Senior Adviser at Acas, discusses productivity in the workplace and the positive impact it can have on our wellbeing.

Michele Piertney Acas Michele Piertney

Michele is a Senior Adviser and Collective Conciliator and has worked for Acas for ten years.

One of her interests is the intertwining of work and relationships - how work can affect our personal lives and how our personal lives can impact on our work.

Am I lazier than a middle-aged French woman called Michele? Do I spend my time drinking more coffee than my Italian counterpart? Or have longer lunches than a German worker?

I don't think so - and I'm hoping that my boss and clients agree.

Britain is ranked as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a company (World Bank - 'Doing Business' Index), but our output per hour is 16.3% below the average for the rest of the advanced G7 economies. In other words, Michele, that French employee, could finish work at lunch time on a Thursday having done as much work as the British Michele will complete by Friday evening. Why and how does this happen?

Attempting to resolve this anomaly generates two questions.

Firstly, how can productivity be raised to match that of our European neighbours and secondly, will an increase in productivity lead to a drop in those 'good' working practices that help employees to enjoy their role, that mean they are valued in their work and are respected by their managers? The productivity question is not likely to go away and the government currently has a call for evidence to gather more views on what works for who.

We know that work can be good for our mental, as well as our financial, well-being. We tend to define ourselves and others through our work and the relationships that we make - nearly 18% of 18 - 34 year olds met their significant other at work and many of us make life-long friends through work. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, with poor working environments having a negative impact on our wellbeing. An interesting report form the Psychological Society found that "Poorly designed jobs, work that is not organised well, difficult work environments, poorly trained managers and a lack of understanding of human behaviour in the workplace can create or exacerbate mental health conditions."

For employers, the positives are a two-way street - the phrase 'staff are your greatest asset' has been proved time and time again. There is no evidence to demonstrate that treating employees like automatons increases productivity - in fact, it's quite the reverse.

Through extensive conversations with employers and employees, we've developed a tool - the 'Productivity Wheel' that helps organisations look at seven areas of their business that can potentially help to increase productivity.

And intrinsic to this 'Productivity Wheel [PDF, 695kb]' is your workforce, their well-being, their development and their engagement with the organisation.

Why not give it a try? The 'Wheel' is free, simple to use and it doesn't matter if you're a plc, a charity, a local authority or a small business - it could change the future direction of your organisation.

You will also have the opportunity to request a free advisory visit from one of our experts to discuss your results and explore options and solutions.

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