Workplace wellness
Ergonomic chairs and yoga sessions can only go so far in improving productivity. Image Credit: Shutterstock

For years now, employee wellbeing has catapulted to the top of corporate agendas.

From office Feng Shui to free fruit, and from lunchtime workouts to mental health support, how employees feel both inside and out has become the preoccupation of human resource departments. Of course, taking care of our teams can only be a good thing - but in all the effort to build a happy workforce (and keep it that way) something else is being systematically overlooked.

Employee physical health? Check. Employee emotional wellbeing. Check. Employee productivity? Wait, what?

What of productivity?

While today’s model corporate office brims with ergonomic chairs, resident counsellors and chillout rooms, the same care and attention is notable in its absence when it comes to maximizing employee productivity. Strange, given that human productivity is critical to corporate success.

For renowned management consultant, Peter Drucker, getting the most out of the human element of a company was as important as the scientific analysis of the organization’s production processes.

To that end, investing in well-being is indeed vital to bringing the best out of a workforce. But there’s something else that is of even greater importance, and that’s effective management.

The truth is, while we care about our employees, we’re not great at managing them – or their output at least. Contrast that to the effort that goes into managing processes and a stark difference emerges.

Missing the human element

A simple internet search is indicative of our skewed priorities. Type “process management” into Google and the search yields in excess of four billion results. Type “human productivity” and the search engine returns a mere 259 million results (out of curiosity I checked wellbeing, and the figure was almost double that).

Long story short, we are managing processes, not people.

Across the board, companies appear not to think twice about investing copious amounts of time and resources in the deployment of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and other planning tools in the hope of achieving productivity gains. In fact, the global ERP software market alone is expected to reach $61.69 billion by 2025, up from $32.67 billion in 2017, according to market research company Fior Markets.

However, when it comes to managing employees, the story is entirely different. We often rely solely on twice-yearly performance reviews to drive human productivity, and even then, their effectiveness and usefulness for employee and employer alike can be questionable.

For companies in pursuit of greater productivity, that simply doesn’t cut it.

Put people into the equation

As I have stressed before, productivity is not a question of money, it’s a question of time. And with each full-time employee representing 2,000 hours per year, managers need to start matching their attention on process management with an unflinching focus on the people at the core of their business.

Until that happens, the ongoing failure of management to boost knowledge worker productivity means that organizations will continue to get far less per hour worked than they should – a situation that employees themselves admit to being complicit in creating.

Several years ago, Microsoft surveyed more than 38,000 employees external to the company about the hours they worked, and the findings uncovered an indicting self-assessment, with respondents estimating that just 62 per cent of their average working week was productive. Beyond the limits of Microsoft’s study, the numbers get worse.

In a corporation of 30,000 workers, the average number of unproductive hours is equivalent to the work of 11,400 full-time employees.

In the face of such worrying numbers, it’s clear that companies need to do a much better job of managing their workforces. The reality is, even with the best ERP and process planning tools at your disposal, it is only by bringing the very best out of your people through effective management that you will achieve the kind of output per hour that your company craves.

Here is the bottom-line: if you are serious about the desire for productivity growth, you first need to get serious about managing the very people on whom it relies.

- Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at