Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 14 Quality of Office Spaces

"Creating need-supply fit affordances in knowledge work environments through user-centred design processes"

Piia Markkanen, Eevi Juuti, Aulikki Herneoja, University of Oulu/Finland

Abstract: Academical research on knowledge work environments often focuses on gathering knowledge on user-experiences and various measurable factors. Current research acknowledges the holistic and the complex nature of knowledge work environments, the employees' task-related needs, and the individuals' characteristics. Nevertheless, the link between knowledge work environment research and their design is still relatively weak. We explore workplace design through a participatory design process. The user-centred design approach revealed practical links between the environmental elements and employees' needs to support the design process. Participants explored three work situations, which varied on the level of interaction and task-complexity. The outcome of this exercise revealed distinctly different needs in explored situations in terms of privacy, exposure, mood and atmosphere. We used this information to generate design aims and affordances that support different task-related functional needs. The designed affordances are presented as a traditional floorplan, but also through affordance mapping. 

This descriptive analysis of implemented affordances reveals the designed entities of architectural and interior elements through instrumental, symbolic and aesthetic dimensions. In addition to the functionality of instrumental dimension, the symbolic and aesthetic dimensions may have a substantial impact on employees' decisions to actively re-locate in between the tasks and to experience improved satisfaction towards their work environment. We propose that the emerging data from design processes and affordance mapping of existing work environments could inform both workplace design and research on implicit ways in which to support the employees' need-supply fit and environmental satisfaction.

"Cultural Values and its influence on future Workspaces"

Hans-Joachim Bargstaedt, Thomas Vogl, Bauhaus-Universitaet Weimar/Germany

Abstract: The internationalisation in many companies and projects requires a better understanding of working conditions in different cultures to enable an enhanced integration of employees in foreign working environments. Nevertheless, there are boundary conditions in each country, which leads to different workplace strategies and workplace conditions. This will be analysed through the comparison of cultural values, particularly religion, which is one relevant characteristic of cultures across the globe. Therefore, relevant literature and existing legal frameworks in Europe and the United States of America for employee rights protection regarding religious discrimination are examined and appropriate measures for an internationally accepted working approach are deducted. The imprint of cultural values is a very strong frame for employees and their working habits. Especially the working conditions in Western countries are highly influenced by Christian standards. Although there are many clear traditional limitations, most countries can develop their individual and original "open space" experimental fields, which differ substantially from country to country. Therefore, workplace strategies need to be designed according to cultural characteristics and uniform working terms are necessary to create equal working conditions for employees from all cultural backgrounds. The line of discussion is focused on the balance or imbalance between convergence to an internationally accepted and equalised way of working and workplaces to promote the well-being of foreigners in multinational companies.

"Does giving more always equal getting more: A longitudinal study of office relocation"

Ruta Kazlauskaite, Leva Augutyte-Kvedaraviciene,  ISM University of Management and Economics Vilnius/Lithuania

Abstract: To compensate for open-plan office shortcomings, organisations and facility managers are now paying greater attention to the overall office design and its functionality, not just mere provision of well-equipped workspaces for individual task performance. Furthermore, to mitigate the negative effects of open-plan offices on employee well-being, such as for instance stress, and to attract and retain talent, organisations are increasingly providing their employees on-site wellness facilities. In this study, we seek to test the effects of supportive facilities and on-site wellness space on employee work-related well-being. Following the need-supply fit theory, office functionality (availability of supportive facilities to satisfy diverse employee needs) may be expected to have a positive impact on employee well-being. In addition, building on the signalling theory, we propose that availability of on-site wellness facilities signals the employer’s concern about employee well-being, which in turn will trigger their positive responses and enhance well-being.

Employees performing similar functions at the same organisation, who were relocated from six open-plan office buildings (with limited office functionality and no on-site wellness space) to a new building (high in functionality and with plentiful on-site wellness space), participated in a longitudinal survey. At base line (prior to relocation), we received responses from 399 employees, at the follow-ups – 435 (4 months after relocation) and 358 (8 months after relocation). At follow-ups respondent satisfaction with their physical work environment (PEW) increased considerably. The effect size for job satisfaction and motivation was very low and significant at only one of the follow-ups.