Focus on People, Places and Processes

August 1996


Focus on People, Places and Processes

By Lisa Corbin

Office productivity is determined by success in three areas-people, places and processes. All must work in conjunction with one another in order to yield performance gains. An ergonomically correct office is worthless if employees are not up to snuff. And talented workers will fall short if forced to rely on overly complicated or malfunctioning office equipment. Likewise, state-of-the-art computer systems will not have much impact on productivity if being used in overheated or poorly lit offices. As Winston Churchill once said: "We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us."

The good news is that some federal agencies are finally beginning to focus equally on people, places and processes. Facilities managers, human resources directors and chief information officers are working together to realize productivity goals. Efforts are being made to enhance employee skills and expand technologies that support those skills while improving the physical facilities that house them.

Office equipment manufacturers are abandoning complex, overloaded machines in favor of user-friendly models that are more sensitive to users' needs. Digital technology has made standard equipment such as copiers and fax machines faster and easier to use; artificial intelligence has made them smarter.

Rising workers' compensation claims resulting from backaches, headaches, throat irritation and other disorders have prompted agencies to make offices more environmentally sound and ergonomically correct. Worker facilities traditionally have been one of the most overlooked areas in the productivity equation. Now agencies are realizing that uncomfortable workers are unproductive workers, and that steps must be taken to eliminate indoor air pollution and all furniture that fails to accommodate different body sizes and work styles.

Physical work environments are not passive settings but active variables that can significantly enhance productivity. To draw attention to the role facilities play in worker performance, the Clinton Administration has joined the American Institute of Architects, the International Association of Corporate Real Estate Executives, the International Facility Management Association and Johnson Controls to support the National Summit on Building Performance. Goals of the summit, which will be held in Washington in September, are to motivate corporations and government agencies to make the same type of investments in facilities as they have in human resources and information technology. It will explore how to quantify return on workplace investments and how to relate those investments to strategic goals. The consortium hopes to educate executives about the impact facilities have on productivity.

This guide serves as an educational tool as well. It is intended to bring managers up to date on trends in office products, furniture and environmental controls so they can boost performance levels.

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