A comparative study of the productivity of offices from two industrial sectors
The objectives of this research were to define and develop measures of the productivity of offices and to use these to determine some of the characteristics of offices that are associated with differing approaches to productivity. The study was initiated in the belief that the growth in the numbers of and proportions of office workers will bring about an increasing need to develop performance criteria which are relevant to the specialised nature of the information and communication service in organisations. After a review of the evolution, the numerical growth and the distinct features of office employment, the concept of productivity was examined and a model was developed which conceptualised the productivity of offices in terms of two dimensions, efficiency and effectiveness; efficiency being the optimisation of the means by which resources are combined into final outputs, and effectiveness being the extent to which the office fulfils the information requirements of the organisa tion. The model of office productivity was tested empirically by carrying out field research in two industrial sectors, engineering and insurance. These were chosen as representative of two differing approaches of management to office productivity, insurance being identified with the 'white collar' industry approach, and engineering with the more traditional industrial 'shop floor' attitude. The variations in the levels of the productivity components were analysed and the offices were classified into four groups, each displaying a different combination of levels of the two productivity components. A relationship was then sought between each of these groupings and a number of different office characteristics. The results showed that each grouping had several shared characteristics which, combined, were identified as a 'productivity orientation'. Analysis of each 'productivity orientation' showed that high levels of efficiency were associated with insurance sector offices, and with offices which were extensively computerised. High levels of effectiveness were found to be significantly related, not with a particular industry group, but with certain management and employee behaviour variables.