Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 13 Physical Workplace Issues

"The influence of indoor environmental quality and workspace design on employees’ health and work performance"

Quan Jin, Holger Wallbaum, Ulrike Rahe,  Chalmers University of Technology Gothenburg/Sweden

Abstract: Human health and well-being have gained growing attention in the societal debate as well as in research. It is widely acknowledged that employees’ health and well-being contribute to a decent work environment which can positively contribute to economic benefits for the employers, the social-welfare and health system as well as the building owners. However, the office environment is complex and constitutes of various factors affecting employees’ health and well-being, for example, indoor climate, architectural design, and social work environment. Therefore, this paper will focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and workplace design, and their influence on employees’ health and work performance. A multi-disciplinary approach is developed to conduct involved an online-based survey, individual interviews and a workshop. 

Results show that physical office environment shows a large association with self-reported health and self-reported work performance. IEQ factors of air quality and relative humidity are significantly correlated with PSI. Size of individual workspace and aesthetic appearance of the office gain the highest correlation with self-reported health status among the factors of workspace design. Noise and artificial lights are studied to be significantly associated with work performance, and distance between work desks is largely associated with work performance. Considering the needs of employees on the physical office environment, air temperature, air quality and availability to work concentrated still underperform but perceived as highly important by the employees. The study made it possible to review and compare the influence of physical environment factors affecting employees’ health and well-being. The data collected will contribute to an office database which is under development by the authors.

"The Effects of Personal Comfort Systems on Thermal Comfort, Cognitive Performance and Thermo-physiology in Moderately Drifting Temperatures"

Wei Luo, Rick Kramer,  Pascal Rense, Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, Maastricht University/The Netherlands;  Yvonne de Kort, Eindhoven University of Technology/The Netherlands

Abstract: Strict ambient temperature control is common practice in modern office environments aiming to satisfy the thermal comfort demand of an average person: the one-climate-fits-all paradigm. However, three consequences arise: (i) Due to inter-individual differences, individuals’ thermal comfort is compromised; (ii) Strict climate control results in high energy demands and therefore hinders achieving sustainability targets; (iii) Thermal resilience may decrease as people are no longer exposed to natural thermal variations. A more dynamic environment allowing more temperature variations may reduce the building energy demand substantially. However, thermal comfort may be jeopardized. Studies indicate that a Personal Comfort System (PCS) can improve thermal comfort. Most studies still apply PCS in a rather strict ambient environment, aiming at thermal comfort only. The influence of PCS in a dynamic, i.e., drifting, environment on individual thermal comfort, cognitive performance and physiology remains largely unstudied.

Therefore, preliminary results of a study on PCS in a dynamic indoor environment are presented, targeting only those body segments that are most sensitive to thermal discomfort. In this study, a personal comfort system was developed consisting of a heating desk, a heating mat and a personal fan aiming at conditioning the most uncomfortable body segments under mild cold and mild warm environments. So far, eight subjects were enrolled, including three males and five females. The results suggest that the tested PCS can improve thermal comfort in moderately drifting temperatures. The application of PCS will not change the effectiveness of drifting temperature on vasomotion in terms of the underarm-finger skin temperature gradient. The cognitive performance can even be enhanced by the use of PCS, depending on the task and environmental temperature.

"Travel Concentration: The effects of attractor-bound movement on workplace activity"

Petros Koutsolampros, Kerstin Sailer, Rosie Haslem, University College London/UK

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore the effects of office attractors on workplace activity. First, it aims to describe how movement towards different attractors such as canteens and entrances can be approximated in a 2D spatial model, and second, to show how those simulated effects relate to actual observations of movement and interaction. Human activity in physical workspace is typically examined from the perspective of the purely geometric properties of the space (i.e. in the field of space syntax), or by other properties of workspaces, such as barriers and distance between workers. Movement in offices however is an activity that is driven by both geometric and non-geometric properties. The non-geometric properties relate to the functional configuration of space (where seats/canteens/meeting rooms are) but the activity itself happens in the real space and it is thus bound by spatial configuration. This paper examines the two activities of movement and interaction under the hypothesis that a spatial model that properly simulates attractor-bound movement can successfully identify the locations where movement happens, but also provide relevant hints for serendipitous interaction.

To study this hypothesis, we constructed paths from each seat to a set of three types of attractors, specifically the building entrance, the closest canteen or kitchen and the closest WC. These paths were then transformed to zones of visibility to take into account the surrounding space as well as to allow for interaction to be examined as that activity is unlikely to happen directly on the path. The final result is a metric of travel concentration that measures how likely is it that a space will be seen from those generated paths. The metric is validated against actual observations of movement and interaction in a linear model, tested initially against a large sample of different workplaces (216 floors), but also against two sets of floors, one with high and one with low seat density. The new metric fares well against both movement and interaction on the whole sample, but on the two sets of floors the effects are less robust. In high-density floors the main driver of attractor movement is the one generated from outside the floor and to a lesser extent the one that comes from within the floor. In low density floors only interaction is somewhat predictable albeit with a weak effect and only in relation to travel from within the floor. Travel concentration was found to be less effective than the existing Visual Mean Depth metric, however combinations of the two were found, in some cases to yield the best results.