7 Poor Working Conditions in Europe that Hurt Employee Productivity

by Erin Sevitz on March 25, 2019

Much of the conversation on facility management best practices, in both the US and Europe, has centered around reducing real estate costs. While this is certainly a smart strategy, there comes a point when there’s only so much you can cut.

Focusing on improvements in employee productivity can have an even greater impact on the bottom line. One of the most effective ways to do this is by reducing or eliminating poor working conditions. Here are the top ones employees in Europe face today. 

7 Poor Working Conditions That Hurt Productivity

1) Inadequate Space Utilization

Have you ever heard the term “set up to fail”? If your employees are lacking the space and resources to do their best work, you are doing just that. And it isn’t just about allocating the right amount of space per person. Your employees need enough space to be able to work comfortably, but they also need the right mix of space to be productive.

An Office for National Statistics report found that UK workers are, on average, between 27 percent and 31 percent less productive per hour than workers in France and Germany.

Why is that?

One obstacle that may be hindering UK productivity is “the British habit of mixing work with pleasure,” entrepreneur Thibault Fulchiron told The Guardian. Employees in the UK are encouraged to socialise as part of a healthy working culture, which can blur the lines between work space and social space, and ultimately, decrease productivity.

Employees need to have access to quiet spaces where they can concentrate on deep work, as well as common areas designed for collaboration (and socialising). And they need an easy way to find and reserve these spaces.

2) Ineffective Workplace Technology

Workplace technology is extremely important to the employee experience, and the right technology can do more than just increase employee satisfaction. It also increases productivity, which saves you time and money by empowering smarter working.

According to an article by Staffing Industry Analysts with information from another study commissioned by Ricoh Europe, 47 percent of the 3,600 European workers surveyed aren’t convinced the workplace technology they currently use enables them to be their most productive. They also said they believe having better access to technology could save them 3.5 days’ worth of time every month.

Inefficient workplace technology hurts productivity in a big way. Consider what happens when you’re using outdated software for hosting meetings, for instance. At least a few times a week, you have to restart a conference call, log back in, and get everyone back on track. By eliminating this distraction and others, you can save employees days worth of time every month.

Technology that’s slow, outdated, or ineffective is also frustrating to use. And over time, that frustration can erode employee satisfaction and even push employees out the door.

3) Poor Lighting


If there’s one element employees want more than anything else in their workplace design, it’s access to natural light.

Results from a pan-European survey revealed that current lighting in the workplace is not satisfying users and their needs. Of the 1,110 workers surveyed, 56 percent said they would like better work place lighting.

Not surprisingly, over 90 percent of those asked said they believe their work lighting impacts their mood, 87 percent said it affects their performance, and 92 percent said it influences their alertness in the workplace.

Poor lighting contributes to eye strain, fatigue and reduced productivity. On the contrary, access to plentiful light —especially natural light — can improve productivity. 

4) Inefficient Workplace Processes

Just as it’s critical to evaluate workplace technology, it’s important to take a hard look at your workplace processes and identify opportunities for improvement. Often times, management and employees will accept a process based solely on the assertion that “this is how it’s always been done.” But times change, and our customers and employees do as well. Open up a dialogue with your team and ask the question: “What workflow issues are slowing you down?” You’d be surprised at how much things can change with just a few simple tweaks and the automation of certain procedures.

5) Cybersecurity

Europe leads the way in many areas when it comes to employee productivity. However, many organizations in Europe view current approaches to cybersecurity as a significantly greater challenge to productivity than other regions, according to the Workplace 2025 Survey Report.

The report found that 60 percent of European companies believe their cybersecurity strategy has a negative impact on employee productivity, compared to only 32 percent in North America.

Keeping your business secure should be a top priority, but it shouldn’t negatively impact employee productivity. Computers, tablets, apps, and programs shouldn’t have so much security that employees get frustrated. (Or worse, waste valuable time trying to log in to the applications they need.)

6) Uncomfortable Working Conditions


It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re shivering or constantly fanning yourself to stay cool. Similarly, issues like broken chairs, wobbly desks or clanging pipes create poor working conditions that can become big distractions.

Failing to keep workers comfortable isn’t simply a distraction—it also has serious financial implications, BBC found. Around 2 percent of office hours in the UK are wasted on changing the office temperature, costing the economy more than £13 billion each year.

Distractions keep your employees from engaging in the type of deep work that produces the best results. Over time, they can hurt morale and negatively impact the employee experience.

The good news is that you can easily address this issue by ensuring employees have an easy way to submit service requests via a mobile app.

7) A Toxic Company Culture

Your company culture directly influences employee engagement and productivity. In fact, much of today’s workforce will choose to move on to a new job if the workplace culture doesn’t meet their expectations.

And in Europe, workers have reported declining levels of job satisfaction over the past three decades. What does this mean for employee satisfaction and productivity?

Just like a snarky attitude, a negative company culture is contagious. It lowers employee engagement and reduces productivity.

But there’s more to creating a positive company culture than providing great perks and hosting an occasional happy hour. It starts with your leadership team establishing strong core values and reinforcing them throughout your organization.

How to Supercharge Employee Productivity 

If your organization is experiencing erosion of productivity and workforce engagement or a higher than normal churn rate, there’s a good chance at least one of these poor working conditions is standing in your way.

While compensation packages are important, the breakdown is likely stemming from something much deeper — more emotional than pecuniary.  Yet the impact on the enterprise is almost entirely financial. Not only does the loss of an employee equate to 30 to 50 percent of their annual salary, you stand to lose top talent to your competitors.

Talk with your leadership team and your employees to identify their biggest roadblocks to productivity. Once you have a better idea of the problem, you can begin to address it. Here are a few steps to improve poor working conditions and supercharge employee productivity:

  • Lead with data. Use space management software and IoT sensors to determine how employees are using the spaces available to them and how you can improve space utilization.
  • Be mindful of how you introduce new workplace technology. Look for solutions that integrate with your existing technology platforms, rather than adding to your tech stack. Get feedback from employees to make sure it’s actually going to make them more productive, rather than adding unnecessary steps.
  • Give employees the tools to find what they need to be productive. That includes the ability to find people, reserve space, request service and receive mail or visitors.

In this employee-centric market, your top talent won’t put up with poor working conditions for long. Create the environment they deserve, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.


Erin Sevitz

Erin Sevitz is the Senior Director of Marketing at iOFFICE + SpaceIQ.

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