Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 12 Challenges of new Ways of Work

"Social interaction in an office environment: A qualitative study after relocation to a smart office"

Deniz Tuzcuoğlu, Dujuan Yang, Bauke de Vries, Aslı Sungur, TU Eindhoven/The Netherlands

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine user experiences on social interaction after moving into a smart office environment. The study was conducted after the relocation in ‘Stadhuistoren,’ a smart office building of Eindhoven Municipality. Semi-structured interviews with eleven office users and observation for five working days were conducted. The data was analyzed based on grounded theory and thematic analysis. The results revealed various components of social interaction happening in the new office environment and emphasized the importance of spontaneous confrontations and the need for non-work-related conversations. This study further suggests that the spatial configuration, and if possible smart applications, should facilitate social interaction in an office environment.

"Well-being in flexible workspaces supported through coaching, collaboration and empathic understanding"

 Julia Pfitzner, Sarah Sellmer,  RBSGROUP- Part of Drees & Sommer Frankfurt/Germany

Abstract: Companies are increasingly introducing flexible workspaces when changing their office design (Kratzer & Lütke Lanfer, 2017). However, such open office environments are suspected of causing stress among employees (Vischer, 2007), while the impact on employee satisfaction remains unclear (Danielsson & Bodin, 2008; De Been & Beijer, 2014). The objective of the PRÄGEWELT project was to better understand the influences of flexible workspaces (referred to hereafter as ‘open space’) on employee well-being. Among others it explored how employees perceive the open space, how they cope with it and what aspects influence their satisfaction. Furthermore, the project aimed to develop suggestions for how to improve the introduction of this new office form. The purpose of this paper is to share the tools that have been conceptualized and present the data considered for tool development.

The transdisciplinary project PRÄGEWELT stands for ‘Prevention-oriented design of new (open space) work environments’. During the mixed-method research eight organizations were investigated in a case study design using semi-structured interviews, observations and a quantitative survey. Three key insights derived from our research: 1) Open space demands from the individual that s/he acquires new behaviours that need to be learnt. 2) There is no perfect open space, as the spatial concept always encompasses conflicting expectations (e.g. concentration versus communication). Therefore, the collaboration of the user community is key. 3) Open space is more than a spatial concept. It incorporates several processes at the level of the organization itself. Therefore, space and organization “must fit” in order to be experienced positively by the employees. The transdisciplinary team conceptualized two formats in order to give practical answers to the identified challenges: 1) A workshop based on coaching methodology in order to enhance the individual participants’ spatial learning and self-care. 2) A workshop that facilitates collaboration at the level of the user community. The article concludes that an open space requires self-responsibility at different levels. Since well-being is not inherent in the space, the potential of the open space needs to be actively created by its users. This can be supported by change management and the use of innovative tools engaging the individual, the user community and the organization.

"Personal Office Preferences"

Nigel Oseland, Mark Cachlove, Workplace Unlimited, Berkamsted/UK

Abstract: The debate on open plan versus enclosed offices rages on, but workplace design is not a such a simple dichotomy. Furthermore, office occupants clearly have different workplace preferences depending on factors like personality, personalisation, flexibility and sense of belonging etc. The research was aimed at unravelling some of the more personal factors underlying preferences. An on-line survey was conducted to rate the participants preference for a number of office solutions including private offices, open plan and agile working. Results are that landscaped offices and agile working were more highly preferred than open plan and, surprisingly, private offices. Home-working was rated fairly high whereas hot-desking is rated low as a preferred option. Landscaped offices and agile working appear to be more agreeable options. When considering the current primary workplace of the respondents, those in private offices prefer private offices, whereas those in open plan prefer open plan. It therefore appears that those who have not actually experienced open plan are more opposed to it. 

Preferences were found to significantly differ by personality. Introverts are more in favour of private offices and least prefer open plan, agile working and hot-desking compared to extroverts. Interestingly, there is little difference between introverts and extroverts in the preference for home-working; with both groups rating it relatively high. The research clearly shows how the preferences for office type differs by personal factors such as personality type. It also verifies that the preference for a particular office type is biased towards the office type that people are familiar with and that there is fear and distrust of those office types not experienced.