Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 10 Workplace Culture & Management


"Levels of Evidence – necessary for Evidence Based Design?"

Martin Steffen, Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg/Germany

Abstract: One of the key principles in modern workplace design requests, that the decisions for specific solutions should base on the most recent and significant evidence available. While recency can easily be identified by the date of publication, the evaluation of significance poses a greater challenge. One solution is to hierarchically rate publications in accordance to their evidence. One solution for such a hierarchical rating system is the assignment of publications to predefined “levels of evidence”. The research field of medicine has already established several of such schemes. One of those could be transferred to the workplace research literature. Within the scope of the author’s doctoral thesis on modern knowledge work environment, 471 publications were collected. They contain contributions from 1969 to 2019, from various disciplines, different publishers, and different genres. The range reaches from scientific journals to practitioners’ guidebooks and newspaper articles. This variety made it necessary to get an overview about the evidence within these publications. 

Therefore, an evidence level rating system from medicine was adapted and applied to the 471 publications using qualitative content analysis. The results of this feasibility study suggest that such an evidence level system can be established and applied with reasonable effort. Although its limitations – especially in regard of the sampling method – this study brings up some ideas to discuss. For example, programming a digital and self-learning algorithm based on such a rating system, in order to search and label any workplace related publication found in online databases and libraries. Such labels could enable researchers to gain a better overview of the evidence in specific workplace topics. This could be of importance in the dynamic in field of knowledge work and workplace design, as research could provide hard proven evidence only with some delay. In consequence, this short paper aims to give an impulse to the discussion about which quality and recency of evidence needs to be available and sufficient.


"User-centered office design, designed by users. Co-created work environments and their impact on cultural organizational development."

Daniel Ringwald, The Dive GmbH Berlin/Germany

Abstract: For some years now, there has been a growing understanding that the design of products and solutions must be oriented towards the needs of the user, summarized under the term User Centered Design. In this article, a co-creative design approach is shown that transfers this development to the design process of future-proof and culture-related work environments, making a subsequent change process superfluous. Users are customers and planners at the same time and change roles continuously to get a holistic view of the issues. They independently analyze, design and implement the conditions of their new work environment with the support of external facilitators. Soft factors, such as necessary cultural agreements, are made visible and negotiated with each other as they arise. The new environment is designed in an agile, iterative process flow that integrates all levels of development and planning. The paper gives insights into working methods, attitudes and techniques, as well as into the structural setup and process of the co-creation. Space creates culture and vice versa.

"Collaboration platforms as enablers of new work - three case studies on organisational prerequisites for change"

Thomas Hardwig, Georg-August-University Goettingen/Germany

Abstract: Collaborative applications have the potential to support a new, networked and self-directed form of collaboration, currently propagated by many companies as “new work”. However, the deployment of new technologies does not automatically lead to new forms of work. There are a number of inhibiting or promoting factors to be considered. An important factor influencing the extent to which technological possibilities can be realised is the form companies organise work. The aim of this contribution is to analyse the interrelation between the use of technology and the ways of organising work, using three case studies on collaboration platforms as examples. We want to describe how the use of collaboration platforms affects organisational change and examine the conditions that promote or hinder a change to “new work”. We argue on the basis of John Child's theory of organising (2015), which assumes a fundamental shift from conventional to newer forms of organising. It provides a framework for the empirical analysis of organisational practices.

This contribution presents findings from three qualitative case studies of medium-sized enterprises (special mechanical engineering, IT consulting, software development) with an advanced use of collaborative applications. The enterprises are located in various sites in Germany and abroad. Our research is based on a longitudinal mixed method and multi-methods approach. We have accompanied these enterprises over three years, implementing and testing an integrated “digital workplace”. The case studies reveal that the main challenge of the adoption and use of collaboration platforms is not the command of the technology but rather the complex change in the ways of working and organising. We have found new forms of software-supported collaboration in all three cases, but to a varying degree. This is based on the design of the usage options and authorization concepts of the collaboration platform. It must be decided who is entitled to form groups with whom and who may share content with others and to what extent. Furthermore, the concept of control associated with the use of platforms plays a central role. In the context of an ”imposed” design, more traditional ways of working are encouraged, while an “emergent” design of a collaboration platform encourages the development of “new work”. The case studies suggest that the full potential of software-supported collaboration can only be realised when traditional conceptions of control are overcome.