Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 2 Healthy Workplaces I (17.09.2020, 16.00-17.30)

"The added value of healthy workplaces - In search for evidence"

Theo Van der Voordt, TU Delft/The Netherlands; Per Anker Jensen, Technical University Denmark/Denmark

Abstract: This paper aims to explore the added value of healthy workplaces for organizations, employees, other stakeholders, and the society as a whole, and what evidence is available about the impact of healthy workplaces on end user satisfaction, productivity, and cost. The paper ends with reflections and suggestions for follow-up research. The paper presents on the basis of a literature review a conceptual model of influencing factors on health and wellbeing, possible interrelationships with other values, and possible benefits on individual, organizational and societal level. The literature review shows that limited research is available on the impact of healthy workplaces on other value dimensions. Most research regards the positive relationship between healthy workplaces and employees’ wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity. Data on economic benefits are available as well, with a focus on health promoting programs.

"The association between office use and the burnout-engagement continuum in activity based offices"

Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek, Eindhoven University of Technology/The Netherlands

Abstract: Activity Based offices (ABOs) provide a variety of flexible workspaces designed to support different types of activities. The success of such a work environment is based on certain rules (e.g. no desk claiming) and thus requires a certain type of workplace use. This paper studies how workspace use and obeying rules in ABOs is related to employee well-being, both positively (engagement) and negatively (burnout). Research has shown that people do not use ABOs as intended (e.g. limited desk-switching) and need to cope with stressful conditions (e.g. disturbance by noise). This implies a poor (perceived) fit between those employees and their work environment, which according to person-environment fit theory would cause stress. Continuous stress is known to lead to burnout symptoms and decreased employee engagement. 

The results of a qualitative questionnaire she that respondents agree to clearing out the workspace after they have fully completed a task, but refuse to act similarly when they are out on a small break. They value desk-sharing and have a lot of interactions at/around the workspace. Notably, the respondents have also indicated to be able to concentrate quite well. Generally, they claim to follow the activity-based office rules fairly well. Factor analysis created four distinct office use factors, labelled ‘interaction’, ‘distraction’, ‘desk-switching’, and ‘claiming’. Distraction is related to decreased feelings of energy and involvement. Also, an increase in either interaction or desk-switching is related to increased feelings of professional efficacy. Desk claiming did not show significant associations. 

"Designing to Beat Burnout and Encourage Engagement"

Sally Augustin, Design with Science, La Grange Park/US

Abstract: Employee burnout is a serious workplace issue; it degrades employee quality-of-life and professional performance (Appel-Meulenbroek, Le Blanc, and de Kort, 2020). Employee engagement, conversely, supports worker wellbeing and performance to full potential (Bakker, 2011). Similarly, design strategies can directly make employee engagement more likely (e.g., Veitch, Stokkermans, and Newsham, 2013). Negative workload-related experiences are less likely when the design of the workplace supports tasks-at-hand (Appel-Meulenbroek, Le Blanc, and de Kort, 2020), for instance, and when employees have at-work opportunities for cognitive refreshment (Veitch, 2012). Researchers have comprehensively assessed how workplace design can support particular work activities and design consistent with these findings makes workload overload less likely.

Workplace design can support the positive development of employee communities, via, for example spatial layout (Allen and Henn, 2007) and tactile experiences (Ackerman, Nocera, and Bargh, 2010). Hoendervanger, Ernst, Albers, Mobab, and van Yperen (2018) generally link environmental satisfaction, and the resulting more positive moods, to employee engagement and Nieuwenhuis, Knight, Postmes, and Haslam (2014), for instance, tie the presence of green plants to greater levels of employee engagement. Workplace design recommendations, informed by scientific studies and empirical research, that support minimization of burnout and optimal levels of employee engagement, are synthesized in this paper into a model that is practical for workplace designers/managers and human resource professionals to apply. 

Session 3 Healthy Workplaces II (18.09.2020, 11.30-13.00)

"The ‚human‘ workplace – health-relevant factors for learning and working spaces"

Christine Kohlert, Media Design University Munich/Germany

Abstract: While working for different companies in designing new learning and working spaces, as well as doing a lot of change management for employees and users of these new spaces, the question became obvious: is it possible to plan healthy spaces with all networked health relevant factors from the beginning? First questionnaires, workshops and observations with the users were used to find the relevant topics. Following an intensive workshop with various specialists in the field was conducted, the essential factors were determined and discussed. The goal was to cover all relevant influencing factors and develop a checklist for the early planning phase to eliminate the negative effects on health and well-being for the future users.

Particular emphasis was placed on the three areas defined by the World Health Organization as critical to health: mental-social-physical well-being in the workplace. All three levels play an essential role in human satisfaction with regard to work and learning and the environment for working and learning spaces. These findings and checklists were also tested in a research project conducted for the Ministry of Education and Research in Germany (Prägewelt – Präventionsorientierte Gestaltung neuer Arbeitswelten) and further tools were developed. These tools help on one side the planners to design the right spaces with the help of the developed checklists and on the other side the users to understand the design and use it in the right way to stay healthy at the workplace. The user is seen as an important factor, but it also became clear that he also has an essential role and one’s own responsibility to his/her health. The organization has to provide the right basis to help and support health relevant factors and the user hast to understand, accept and use these in the right way. 

"Designing for health: strategies for enhancing employee health through workplace design"

Susanne Colenberg, Tuuli Jylhä, Delft University of Technology/The Netherlands

Abstract: Health has taken a leading role in office design and investments. In the knowledge-intensive world, employees are acknowledged to be organisations’ most important asset, their health and well-being is an important investment in the current office market. In this paper, the purpose is to identify different design strategies for creating healthy workplaces to give direction to design and future research in this rapidly expanding area. Workplace design is able to harm or support health in different ways. For instance, exposure to toxic emissions, loud noise and daylight directly affect physical health. Mental health is affected by work environments causing or buffering stress, or by constraining or fulfilling basic human needs. Psychological theories of arousal, environmental load and stress explain how the amount and appraisal of stimuli affect wellbeing. An imbalance between demands imposed and resources offered by the working environment can cause burnout. Indirectly, the office space design could influence health by nudging healthy behaviour.

The results of the literature review identified three design strategies for employee health related to interior office space. The most traditional strategy, designing for comfort, aims to create a comfortable environment by fulfilling the bodily and psychological needs of the users, and preventing harm, stress, and frustration. Designing for revitalization aims to decrease office workers’ stress by offering an environment that supports physical  recovery and renewal of psychological resources. Designing for healthy behaviour aims at stimulating physical activity, healthy nutrition, or relaxing activities.

"Do Changes in the Work Environment Predict Changes in Privacy Appraisal and Associated Outcomes? – A Longitudinal Study"

Clara Weber, B. Gatersleben, Zurich University of Applied Sciences/Switzerland

Abstract: Privacy fit is a frequently reported issue in open office environments, yet its context predictors and its consequences remain understudied. To investigate these points, this study builds on Altman’s (1975) privacy regulation model and the cognitive appraisal theory (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985) as a transactional model of stress. It focuses on the fit between workers’ desired and achieved levels of privacy and on the appraisal of privacy fit and its stressful nature. 

Two questionnaires at different times were used for measurement. Cross-lagged autoregression analysis of change confirmed suggested predictors such as increase in variety of settings and in adherence of others to protocols that positively influenced post-move privacy fit. Further, change in coping appraisal post-move was predicted by an increase in perceived environmental and behavioural flexibility. Changes in privacy fit and appraisal were associated with increases in job and workplace satisfaction and decreases in emotional and mental work fatigue post-move.