23rd Jan 2024
3 Min Read

Is it time to stop pushing productivity?

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
Culture & Insights

Whenever we hear the word productivity, the word well-being isn’t usually top of mind — but it should be. But with such a nebulous term, what are we actually talking about when we talk about employee well-being and what can we do about it?

Our lead behavioural scientist, Lindsay Kohler, and director of culture and insights, Lisa Hawksworth, sat down to talk definitions, measurement, and where leaders are getting tripped up.

Is productivity as a key measure really the right thing?

Lindsay: When you just think about it in isolation, productivity is actually a really brutal concept. In pure economic terms, it is about maximising labour to get the most output. And that's just not a tenable concept when there's people involved, especially when those people are knowledge workers.

What should we be asking instead?

Lindsay: We should be asking how you can help your people thrive. How you can make the best possible work environment for everyone, regardless of location or role. I think that if you get that right, then productivity will naturally follow.

Lisa: Often when people are asking how to help people thrive, they've not quite got to the crux of the issue. Or they're asking very general questions about well-being and whether people are happy at work. But there are more detailed questions that you can identify to find out what really works for people.

How do we make well-being more tangible?

Lisa: You've got to break it down and get into what the problem is. What's the thing I need to act on and what's can I do as a result? We need to think about psychological safety, readiness, burnout, motivation. To break them down and ask: "What is your challenge and what do you do as a result?"

Lindsay: Defining well-being is a lot like defining culture. Everyone will have a different answer. I think that you and I approach it from a very specific, problem-oriented viewpoint.

Lisa: The key to action is specificity. If you can get to that level of specificity, you can make change happen.

What do leaders get wrong when it comes to well-being?

Lindsay: They get a lot wrong, but not for lack of trying or lack for caring! There's a gap between people's lived experiences and what managers think is happening.

Lisa: When you're looking at cost of living crisis, when you're looking at people working in either physically or emotionally unsafe environments, it's the real baseline stuff that we're taking for granted. That's stuff we need to understand and tackle.

Can we measure well-being?

Lisa: One of the biggest myths is that you can't measure it. But that's because we haven't defined it. Once you've got a framework to define what you mean by measurement, then measuring it is pretty simple.

But quantitative isn't the only way of doing it. We’re talking about people and behaviour. If we want the real juicy stuff, it's not just about asking how people feel, but we need to ask them why.

Are you interested in measuring wellbeing in your organisation?

is designed to get to the heart of how your people feel.

Looking at the key metrics of readiness, psychological safety and motivation, PRiME gives you all the insights you need to drive positive, meaningful change.

Find out more about PRiME

More on this TopIC

The Point.

The latest thinking from the team, direct to your inbox.
We’d love to hear from you

01904 633 399

AWARDS BADGES Agency Business white

The Old Chapel,
27a Main Street,
YO10 4PJ


The Black & White Building,
74 Rivington Street,

© scarlettabbott 2024 Privacy Notice