Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference 2020
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Session 5 Activity-based Workplaces


"Towards activity-based office ecosystem to support three-dimensional spatial understanding in transdisciplinary context"

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

Abstract: Amidst today's pressures for workspace efficiency, it is still difficult to build offices that are compatible with the humans working in them. Architects are usually in charge of the physical office space design, together with interior architects and applicable technical designers. Methodologically, in architectural design research (Research by Design), architecture is considered to be transdisciplinary in its nature, including the aspects of design practice and genuine interaction with other disciplines. We do not want to limit the interdisciplinary interaction to only the already established contacts with the technical disciplines. We find the outcomes of knowledge work environment research to be highly interesting in broadening our understanding of a worker’s relationship to his/hers work environment. Concepts such as person-environment fit, the notion from interaction psychology, challenge us to reflect its contents in an architectural design research context. However, the basic concepts such as environment and space or spatial solution are commonly used in work environment research, but their meaning and application are often difficult to apply in a physical spatial context to us, architects. 

This paper builds on a theoretical framework which hypothesizes that defining the spatial solution of the physical activity-based office environment through an interdisciplinary dialog would contribute to understanding of the person-environment fit. Our interdisciplinary dialog has so far involved, in addition to architectural design knowledge, the knowledge of occupational health, adaptive lighting, acoustics and indoor air quality with the support of service design and human-computer interaction. Furthermore, the theory building through defining an activity-based office ecosystem provides grounds for further studies in order to clarify the contradictory research outcomes concerning the functionality of and satisfaction with activity-based offices. Based on the Research by Design (RbD) approach the activity-based office ecosystem model where the research outcomes, both qualitative and quantitative, would be connected to the time-location-based framework in search for understanding and unity of knowledge beyond disciplines.


"Impact of activity-based work environments on knowledge work performance – quasi-experimental  study in governmental workplaces"

Heljä Franssila, Aleksi Kirjonen,  Senate Properties Helsinki/Finland

Abstract: Work environment change from traditional cell and open-space offices to activity-based work (ABW) generates many concerns among workforce, management and public in general. There are a plethora of relevant drivers for knowledge work productivity and performance, which influence performance simultaneously and not in isolation from each other. This makes identification and isolation of “pure” ABW effects challenging. In addition, alongside the work environment change, there are often other, co-occurring changes having impact on performance taking place in work organisations, like changes in digital tools, work re-organizations, staff changes and strategy changes. In this study, we applied a quasi-experimental design to distinguish the impact of ABW on several dimensions of knowledge work performance in three governmental organizations. 

The empirical measures that were observed in the study were: perceptions on physical environment, virtual environment and social environment, and individual ways of working, well-being at work and self-assessed productivity. The results show that ABW change is a valid means to secure a diverse and functional enough physical work environment for modern knowledge work. The results also show that well-being at work or productivity will not collapse because of ABW change. Instead, the positive change in the self-assessed productivity, when measured with an overall, subjective personal measure, was greater (but not statistically significant) in the treatment group after ABW change than in control group (no work environment change) within study period. In addition, positive change in group work efficiency was greater (statistically significant) in the treatment group, which moved to ABW environment.


"Analyze Group Work Activity Pattern Through Work Type and Collaboration Network in a Large Organization"

Chiara Tagliaro, Yaoyi Zhou, Ying Hua, Cornell University Ithaca/US

Abstract: Workgroups in large organizations tend to share similarities or differences in work activity patterns, and this information is considered essential for office space planning. However, how can we interpret the difference in work activity patterns at the group level?  Is it only because of the difference in work type or the other structural factors such as the position in collaboration networks?  In this paper, we argue that groups’ difference in work activity pattern is a by-product of the organization structure and collaboration network. We claim that understanding the group’s type of work and collaboration network, can help us to interpret the work activity patterns so that we can better design the workplace settings according to the needs. Social network theory and analysis method is used to explain the similarities of work activity patterns among workgroups in the same organization. The hypotheses we tested are as follows: 1) Groups in different work types will have different work activity patterns; 2a) Groups with high network connectivity would be less likely to have a high percentage of individual work time and 2b) Groups with high network connectivity would be more likely to have a high percentage of team-work time, especially for inter-team work.

We surveyed a sample of 188 managers from a large Italian company regarding (a) the percentage of time spent on different work activities: individual work, collaboration, and mobile work; (b) the Units that they mostly interact with. We found statistical evidence supporting our hypotheses 1 and 2b, such that type of work is significantly correlated with the time spent on individual work, but for teamwork especially inter-team work, network connectivity plays a more important role.