Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 4 Health and Well-being@work

"Workspace-Related Needs of Knowledge Workers – Based on Their Work Activity Profile"

Martin Steffen, Hartmut Schulze, Schlieren/Switzerland

Workplace design often has to answer: (a) which different office settings does an organization need, (b) what amount of each setting is required and (c) what should each setting look like. With respect to these questions, we provide an empirical foundation by combining an activity typology and a needs analysis of the office workers. In an applied R&D project, we developed an initial, still rough rationale for such a combined approach and examined it in a feasibility study. Our approach was to classify empirically the workforce into distinguishable work activity types and to identify their particular needs regarding office settings. This offers a foundation to come up with specific suggestions about the (needs-based) quality and quantity of office features. By factor analysis, 15 work activities were reduced to four work factors. Based on their factor loadings, four groups of knowledge workers were formed by cluster analysis. Each group significantly differs from the others at least on one factor. The correlations of the four groups with 40 occupant needs show (for such an exploratory approach) astonishingly sound results. They suggest that recommendations for specific office design qualities and quantities can be derived from such a combined activity and needs survey. This seems to be favorable especially for larger organizations, when being urged to provide a greater amount of suitable work environments. To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies correlating office work activities with user needs. Although the results are exploratory and need to be replicated, our approach provides a new perspective for a work-related and empirical design of office space.

"Switching behaviour in activity based working environments - An exploration of the reasons and influencing factors of switching behaviour in ABW"

 Lukas Windlinger, Eunji Haene Kim, Zurich University of Applied Sciences/Switzerland

Abstract: Opposed to underlying assumptions of ABW offices, previous empirical studies ascertained a tendency that employees do not frequently switch between different activity settings. Even though ABW is more and more becoming the default office concept, employees’ switching behaviour has not been investigated in depth. This study aims to understand employees’ switching behaviour by determining reasons to switch and not to switch and various influencing factors of switching behaviour. Switching behaviour is defined as switching between different places within an office building with work-related, preference-based and/or social purpose, including breaks. Switching behaviour is divided into mandatory and voluntary switching. Mandatory switching is switching due to scheduled activities (meetings) as well as switching due to confidentiality issues. Voluntary switching refers to discretionary switching that may be motivated by a perceived mismatch between either activity or preference, and environment. According to previous research, dissatisfaction with environment can cause switching between different settings in an ABW office.

Findings of a questionnaire conducted in Switzerland and Belgium show that the majority of the respondents switch multiple times a day, which runs counter to the previous research. In addition, the study revealed clear evidence that mandatory switching frequency is independent of various factors suggested in this study. This indicates that the distinction of mandatory and voluntary switching is valid. Furthermore, privacy, acoustics, distraction, proximity to team/colleagues were ascertained as reasons to switch, and place preference/attachment, proximity to team were determined as reasons not to switch.

"How do corporate drivers and individual preferences for agile working meet? Study of Hong Kong organisations and employees"

Aino Kavantera, Renuka Thakore, Graeme Whitehall, University College of Estate Management Reading/UK

Abstract: Agile working, also known as activity-based working (ABW) has gained interest from both business and academia. Agile working allows employees to work flexibly, choosing and switching between different non-assigned workstations, with varying degrees of privacy, depending on the task they are working on. The aim of this study is to investigate how corporate drivers and individual preferences for agile working meet. In contrast to places where agile working concepts have been studied extensively, such as the Netherlands, (see Hoendervanger et al., 2016; Appel-Meulenbroek et al., 2015; De Been and Beijer, 2014) this study focuses on an under-researched region, that of Hong Kong. Systems-thinking’ describes processes that are involved when an organisation transforms from one phase into another. This process takes place at both an organisational as well as at individual levels. The implementation of a workplace concept involves a physiological as well as a psychological change, and the ‘System’ only operates when both individual and corporate levels align in their approach and implementation (Thakore et al., 2020).

Mixed Methods were applied in the analysis. The changing nature of work, productivity and wellness were found to be key drivers for implementation of agile workplace strategies at corporate level, whereas preferences at individual level were found to be positively associated with an individual's exposure level to them. Furthermore, internal constraints such as lack of time and resources were found to limit the efforts of organisations in investing and monitoring impacts and outcomes of agile working, highlighting the need for further research in this area.