Study of 2,800 knowledge workers reveals crucial factors affecting productivity, employee engagement and talent retention.

A new in-depth study, released today, has revealed the crucial factors affecting productivity, engagement and retention in one of the UK’s biggest and fastest growing employment sectors.

The comprehensive study, ‘Creating a workplace that maximises productivity’ was commissioned by Sodexo, in partnership with Quora Consulting, specifically to look into workplace factors impacting knowledge workers in the UK.

With retention crucial to the success of any organisation the revelation from the study that 67% of knowledge workers stated the reason for leaving their last role was because their workplace was not optimised for them is a wake-up call for organisations not to put cosmetic design over substance.

In terms of engagement just 36% thought that their organisation cared about their wellbeing and little under half (48%) trusted their managers’ to ‘do the right thing’ by them.

Office noise, bad lighting and access to quiet space were all cited as crucial factors affecting productivity, with 69% of knowledge workers stating that their workplace design directly impacted their effectiveness.

In the UK today, knowledge workers represent 60 per cent of the overall labour force and are the single fastest growing segment. The needs and expectations of knowledge workers in relation to their work and working environment are unique and it is essential that organisations reliant on this group consider their unique needs if they are to drive productivity, retention and engagement.

More than half of those questioned (51%) claimed that reducing unnecessary noise was the single most important factor to improving their effectiveness, while a third (35%) of respondents stated that access to quiet space was key to increasing productivity.

Ensuring access to daylight and good lighting was a close second to noise with just under a half of respondents stating that it was a major disruptive factor.

Workplace nutrition was also highlighted as playing a significant role in worker performance, with more than half (53%) of those questioned claiming that quality of food is important, but only a third (37%) felt well catered for by their organisation.

Martin Boden, managing director, UK corporate services for Sodexo said: "This study provides a valuable insight into the barriers affecting the productivity, engagement and retention of employees in the knowledge sector, set within the wider context of a rapidly ageing and retiring workforce, shortage of new talent and the overall need to address gender imbalances across the industry.

"The findings clearly demonstrate that seemingly simple factors are pivotal in workplace design with noise, lighting and nutrition playing a far greater role in impacting productivity than more creative workplace solutions and office perks.

"Sodexo is committed to providing solutions that impact the performance of organisations by making positive impacts to the lives of employees. It is clear that collectively, our industry has to work more closely and collaboratively to meet the needs and expectations of knowledge workers."

More than 2,800 employees in this group were questioned as part of the in-depth study which offers analysis and recommendations on how employers can optimise their organisation to increase productivity, engagement and retention against a backdrop of a rapidly changing nature of work. Interestingly, the need for greater collaboration to drive change to the workplace was cited by two thirds of respondents when asked for their views on productivity.

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