Let your chickens roam free

The latest from the UK plc poultry farm: a new experiment has found that allowing employees to work in a ‘free-range’ environment, ie. kitting them out with mobile technology, is good for both the workers and your business. However, if you coop them up like battery hens – putting them in cramped offices with knackered old computers – there will be a marked drop in performance, even if it stops short of them pecking their own legs off. Surely this is stating the clucking obvious?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
At first glance yes. Interestingly, however, the report found that offering flexible working technology doesn’t just improve productivity; it actually improves people’s brainpower too. The test, carried out by research company the Mind Lab, found that workers could suffer from increased stress, diminished IQ and the reduced ability to retain and process information if they spent long periods of time at their desks (and had to work with slow PCs and old CRT monitors).

However, when given flexible working tools such as PDAs and allowed to work more freely, workers’ productivity rose by up to 400%, and stress levels fell by more than 50%. More surprisingly, short-term memory improved, and IQ scores went up by an average of 28%. It is, of course, worth mentioning the sponsors of the experiment – mobile kit maker HP.

All of which suggests that a potentially costly upgrade to flashier kit may well pay off in the long-run. There are of course other ways to arrive at a more productive, more engaged workforce: a simple pay rise would be one of them. After all, what employee likes working for a poultry wage?

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