Good day, good people!
"Manage the system, not the people!" - this mantra I continually echo to all my clients and particularly during my Deep Management 3.0
workshops. It invariably provokes a significant amount of resistance and debate. I frequently hear that managing the system is complex and obscure, while managing people is something we know and can handle. However, the productivity of the system often remains disappointingly stagnant.
Today, I wish to illustrate, with a specific example, that managing the system is not always complicated and, moreover, can yield scientifically proven productivity gains. And that is...
Good ventilation! Yes, indeed - merely ensuring good ventilation within your office space. Does it sound simple? Naive, perhaps? Tempted to stop reading? Then brace yourself for a bit of complexity and a lot of science.
Observe the graph - it represents an actual measurement of the CO2 level in the air. I took this measurement yesterday in one of Berlin's coworking spaces (hello, #WeWork). What is CO2 and what do different concentrations in the air mean for a person?
CO2 is what we exhale. If we consider hunter-gatherers living in the open air, they have no problems with CO2 (open air value <500ppm). But as soon as we find ourselves in a room where CO2 has nowhere to escape (windows are closed and there is no exhaust ventilation), the level starts to rise and the following bad effects occur:
- 500-800ppm - still acceptable, no risks or negative effects
- 800-1200ppm - some people may feel drowsy, but most are accustomed to ignoring this. Various studies show that at this value, cognitive performance can drop by up to 50%. On my graph, this is the red horizontal line.
- 1200-1600ppm - most people now experience (but not necessarily recognize) drowsiness and a feeling of stuffiness (to which we are also accustomed).
- 1600-2000ppm - not just drowsiness, but people actually start to switch off and go for coffee or cola. Often leads to headaches and inability to concentrate. Considered harmful to health. Forget about cognitive abilities.
- Above 2000ppm - brain cells suffer, it is recommended to urgently leave the room.
Now, a few comments from me on various office and non-office spaces, as I have been conducting facilitation sessions
with a CO2 sensor for many years:
- Typical offices - in 9 out of 10 cases, the level I see is above 1000ppm
- Coworking spaces - many think that at least coworking spaces seriously consider this - in 7 out of 10 cases it is also above 1000ppm (even WeWork didn't cope)
- Meeting rooms - I have yet to encounter just one where it was below 1500ppm, often it's around 2000ppm
- Hotels - where windows do not open, I often see above 1500ppm
- Apartments - now many are remote and work from home - I have bad news for you - a room of 80 square meters with 2 adults reaches a value above 1000ppm in about 1 hour.
Now, let's get back to "Manage the system, not the people!" - the first thing you can do as a manager who manage the system is start taking measurements in your office (if you have one), and then start addressing the issues (which, based on my statistics, are almost inevitable). And if your employees are remote, perhaps you should discard the unnecessary cheap marketing trinkets from the welcome pack and include CO2 detectors, because forewarned is forearmed.
And this is just one beautiful example why modern managers should learn how to manage the system, not the people!