The correlation between leadership, design and productivity – An interview with James Kemp, CEO | United Workplace

In your experience, would you say the style of leadership in an organisation taken into account when designing a workplace?

Historically, I would say the answer is no. In the past, leaders have looked at office spaces as purely a facility for housing people while they work. Design had perhaps been more accidental or sub-conscious rather than being informed or deliberate. We are now coming into an age where culture is a huge driver for design. Design is also informed by which type of leader you are.

For instance, someone in leadership who has positive and empathetic qualities, will likely design a more open plan space with all executives out on the main floor, whereas a leader with an authoritarian management style for instance likely design a more traditional space with executives in cellular offices.

Do you think Leadership defines the culture of an organisation?

Leadership defines the culture that an organisation wants to achieve – whether that is woven through the fabric of that organisation or not is determined by how leaders act and behave.

From a design perspective, leaders may want to create particular culture but their behaviour may not align with the type of culture they aspire to. Ultimately the behaviours of leaders have a significant influence of the culture of an organisation. Leadership actions are critical to how that workplace culture is implemented.

In your opinion, what is the correlation between Leadership and productivity/performance in the workplace?

People join an organisation because of its culture – but leave because of their leader. For people to do great work, they need a great leader to support, encourage and develop them.

People will go the extra mile when they feel valued and recognised by their leader. Leadership has a significant impact on the productivity of an organisation.

Leaders need to make sure individuals have the tools available to be productive:

1. Physical Space - spaces to work, collaboration spaces, quiet spaces, spaces to switch between different modes of working.

2. Technology - does technology enable them to work as productivity as possible? Do technical issues prevent them to work remotely? Leaders want their team to above and beyond, but it is important to provide the support necessary to maximise the results of that effort.

- Connect: enable people to connect with others any time, any place on any device to empower your mobile digital culture.

- Collaborate: empower your connected people to communicate, engage and inspire in the simplest, most collaborative and productive way.

- Create: allow your teams to work the way they want, innovate faster, solve problems better and unlock their inner creativity.

3. Health and Wellbeing - leaders often feel the most pressure to perform, so they are the ones who first need to connect to what their core purpose is in trying to lead through change and unlock that sense of purpose in their teams.

This comes back to the concept of wellbeing and engagement which they can actually drive for their team.

The human should be placed at the centre of every space. By harnessing the power of space to maximise wellbeing and productivity, you can set the scene for people to thrive and organisations to succeed.

I am passionate about literally “infusing wellness” into spaces. Focussing on solutions like:
- Air Quality: reducing indoor air pollutants reduces the likelihood of irritation, allergies and serious illness.

- Recharge Zones: where people can retreat, rest and refresh boost productivity and get a sense of calm.

- Nature: connecting with nature can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and enhance mood and creativity.

These are just some of the basic ingredients for human life to be productive.

While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even determine success or failure on the job.

What do you think influences workplace productivity?

- Trust - does the leader create a trusting environment?

- Autonomy - is there freedom of choice? And are people given autonomy to do their work?

- Purpose – do people understand the purpose of the organisation and their contribution towards achieving company goals?

- Training and Development - is there the opportunity to improve and be the best version of themselves?

Would you say productivity is the right metric to gage the success or an organisation and its people?

I love the concept of productivity being the measure of success. The challenge however is how is this defined? Is it revenue / profit per head, is it hour worked, input / output related?

Leaders are starting to look much closer at the level of Employee Engagement, which is defined by discretionary effort that somebody is putting going to put in.

Another metric to consider is talent attraction and retention. A measure of success of an organisation is how engaged people are how long they stay in that organisation.

I do believe that if people have the right tools to perform, they will be doing their best work.

Download our latest report exploring Leadership and Design here