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Insights from the Evolve Futures Productivity Conference

View from the Evolve Futures Productivity Conference across green fields with blue sky.

I recently attended a productivity conference hosted by University of Exeter Evolve Futures and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce at the stunning Scorrier House, where the beautiful Cornish sunshine set a motivating tone for the day. The conference was packed with insightful workshops that offered practical strategies for improving productivity and managing stress. Here’s a recap of the key takeaways that left a lasting impression on me. 

Measuring productivity for workload and well-being 

The day kicked off with an engaging workshop by Simon Nicholson on enhancing productivity using the Lean Six Sigma model. He emphasised the importance of understanding what productivity means to each of us and how to measure it within our own businesses.  

The Lean Six Sigma framework, focusing on reducing waste (Lean) and problem-solving (Six Sigma) is relevant for us as a service-based business, particularly the newly added eighth pillar within the Lean Canvas model: unutilised talent. Considering our future recruitment opportunities, we were encouraged to rethink traditional recruitment strategies and consider broader roles that allow team members to contribute across various sectors and departments as a way of better utilising a broader talent mix. 

We also delved into various measurements and KPIs for productivity, tailored to the unique outputs of different organisations. This prompted me to reflect on our current productivity metrics at The Agile Communications Agency. Simon’s insights inspired us to incorporate an effort matrix to better quantify our team’s effort within timeframes, ultimately providing a clearer picture of their workload and well-being. 

Triple bottom line and productivity 

Another interesting aspect of the workshop was examining productivity through the lens of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Simon highlighted how efficiencies in one area can free up resources to explore new development opportunities in others. This holistic approach ensures that productivity improvements benefit not only the organisation but also its people and the environment.  

As we continue on our journey to B-Corp certification, this trio of influences is front and centre of our company’s development, and being able to dedicate a proportion of my role specifically to B-Corp has allowed us to become much more focused on reducing waste. Not just physical waste but also reducing wasted time and resources and minimising duplication of effort. Read our B-Corp blog to find out more about this. 

Stress management in the workplace 

The second workshop I attended was led by Josh Barkin, a PT and corporate wellness coach, who tackled the tricky topic of stress management in the workplace. Josh approached stress from two angles: acute stress, which can be motivating and help tackle immediate challenges, and chronic stress, which poses long-term health risks if not addressed. 

He shared some practical tips for managing stress, such as engaging in high-stress scenarios like sea swimming, breathwork, and exercise as a way of helping us build resilience and manage personal or work-related stress more effectively.  

The Agile team are also sharing their own stress-boosting tips which help them master challenges: 

Lyssa

I spend most of my time deep in the digital world, so when I need to bust some stress, I like to go for a long walk in nature alone with my headphones. I really enjoy stomping through the woods, near water, or when I have a bit more time, I love rambling around Dartmoor.  
Another thing I do to reduce my stress is very much a private activity! I love to sing very loudly along to music as I drive my car, which no one else needs to hear! My current favourites are Chappell Roan, Hozier, Arctic Monkeys, The Hamilton soundtrack and System of a Down who are one of my all-time favourites.  

Charla 

I start each day with a fast pace walk near my house. It’s never any longer than 10 to 15 minutes (usually between school runs and starting work that is the optimum time I have). But it allows me to mentally prepare for the day, as well as making a good start on my daily steps goal. We mostly work from home, so gone are the days where you would walk from the car park to work – this is my version of that for homeworking. As soon as I am back through the door – I have arrived at work. 

Rachel

For me, it’s got to be green space! I’m still a school run mum and by the time I get to my desk, it feels like I have run a marathon of multi-tasking. Luckily, our Agile co-working space is set in beautiful, green surroundings with lots of birdsong and wildlife. Sometimes I will get my steps up along the Newham Trail before our Stand-Up meetings, other times I’ll suggest a walking Stand-Up. Failing that, I just stand in the carpark and breathe to feel grounded before a busy day.

Daily Gratitude 

One of Josh’s key suggestions was practising daily gratitude, a habit we already embrace at the Agile Communications Agency. We do this every morning as part of our 20 minute Stand-up meetings. We have been sharing our daily gratitude everyday since the start of 2024, and although at times it can be a bit tricky to think of something, even being grateful for a tasty morning coffee can be enough to help begin to reframe a positive mindset. Gradually over time, this has become a really healthy habit for the whole team, and often becomes a space where we show gratitude for each other which is always lush! 

Regular health and well-being reviews 

Josh also advocated for regular health and well-being reviews, encouraging us to conduct ‘body scans’ (I quickly close my eyes and mentally scan up and down my body to identify and address areas of tension and stress). This mindful practice helps us stay attuned to our physical and mental state and helps us quickly ‘check up’ on ourselves.  

Final thoughts 

The Evolve Futures Productivity Conference provided some great insights into optimising productivity and managing stress. As a small but hardworking team, these workshops helped me further refine our approaches to measurement, recruitment, and well-being alongside all of our positive actions we already have as part of the company.