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A Brave New Workplace: Disclosing the smart and the dark sides of the alternative office spaces
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.). (Industrial Management)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4152-3137
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In recent decades, several knowledge work organizations have introduced alternative workplaces (AWs) that are implemented through flexible and collaborative office models. Their rapid diffusion has been prompted by the deterministic assumption that these may influence workers’ relations and behaviors in the office, in a way that is conducive to greater collaboration and adaptive flexibility. Yet, the scarce empirical fieldwork on alternative workplaces and their multidisciplinary nature limit our understanding of their actual implications for people and organizations.

This thesis questions the validity of the deterministic assumption guiding the implementation, use, and design of AWs, and identifies a set of approaches that companies and managers can employ to avoid inconsistencies and negative outcomes. To do this, this thesis builds upon a collection of studies that have been designed to address four research questions. The first study identifies a framework for AWs that has been used as a cognitive model to interpret the results and draw the boundaries of the empirical fieldwork (RQ1). The framework has been employed in an exploratory analysis, aimed at a systematic overview of the barriers and enablers that companies encounter when implementing AWs (RQ2). The second study explores how AWs are experienced by individuals and groups of knowledge workers, by bringing new opportunities and challenges that cast themselves as oppositional tensions (RQ3). The third study looks at how knowledge workers interpret the AW and enact its organization, by means of spatial practices that problematize the status of its flexible and permeable boundaries (RQ4). The fourth study develops a systematic approach to identifying the spatial implications of AWs (RQ3, 4).

Drawing upon these studies, the thesis posits three important contributions. First, it feeds the discussions on AWs by bringing new empirical evidence in a relatively under-researched area. Second, it advances the concept of the AW, by providing a high-level model synthesizing the different organizational areas in which implementation and discourses have taken place. This thesis advocates the need to bring together the discussions on the different aspects of the AW under the same banner, to better investigate the interactional effects between different implementation areas. Third, the thesis contributes to workplace research and sociology of space by shedding some light on the impact of the spatial reconfiguration of work activities and relations brought by AWs to people and companies. From a practical perspective, this thesis identifies some approaches that are available to companies and their managers to handle the tensions and the identity threats that arise in the new office environment.

Abstract [sv]

Under de senaste decennierna har många kunskapsorganisationer infört vad som benämns aktivitetsbaserade kontor/alternativa arbetsplatser (AW). Dessa arbetsplatser består av flexibelt utformade kontorsmiljöer med olika funktionella möblemang, t ex för möten och tysta arbetsuppgifter. I denna arbetsmiljö har inte medarbetarna en fast arbetsplats utan de söker upp en, för uppgiften, lämplig (ledig) arbetsplats. Den snabba spridningen av AW utgår ifrån ett antagande om att dylika arbetsplatser kan öka organisationens samarbete, samverkan och flexibilitet. Det finns dock begränsat med vetenskapliga studier av hur det är att arbeta i AW, vilka faktiska konsekvenser AW har för människor och organisationer och om denna typ av arbetsplatser uppfyller uttalade mål och ambitioner. Denna avhandling adresserar ovanstående gap genom att kritiskt granskar fenomenet AW, de grundantaganden som AW baseras på samt bidra med empirisk forskning om fenomenet AW. Vidare identifieras en uppsättning strategier som företag och chefer kan använda för att undvika inkonsistenser vid implementeringen av AW.

Avhandlingen omfattar fyra delstudier relaterad till de övergripande forskningsfrågorna. Den första studien identifierar ett ramverk för analys av AW vilket senare har använts för att tolka resultaten från det empiriska arbetet (RQ1). I denna studier fokuseras hinder och möjliggörande faktorer som företag möter när de implementerar AW (RQ2). Den andra studien undersöker hur AW upplevs av individer och grupper av kunskapsarbetare genom att identifiera och diskutera dilemman bestående av möjligheter och utmaningar i AW miljöer (RQ3). Den tredje studien behandlar hur kunskapsarbetare förhåller sig till AW och genom sina rumsrelaterade arbetsbeteenden skapar en organisation. Studien problematiserar även den inneboende utmaningen av att verka i en organisation med flexibla och permeabla gränser (RQ4). Den fjärde studien utvecklar en systematisk ansats för att identifiera de rumsliga konsekvenserna av AW (RQ3, 4).

Utifrån dessa studier lämnar avhandlingen tre centrala bidrag. För det första bidrar avhandlingen med empiriska studier av ett relativt obeforskat område. För det andra presenteras en övergripande modell för AW, vilken syntetiserar de underdiscipliner som diskuterar AW. Av speciellt intresse är interaktionseffekterna mellan olika implementeringsområden. För det tredje bidrar avhandlingen till arbetsplatsforskningen, och då speciellt rumssociologin genom att belysa effekterna av den rumsliga re-konfigurationen av arbetsaktiviteter och relationer som AW påför människor och företag.

Slutligen, ur ett praktiskt perspektiv identifierar avhandling även metoderför företag och deras chefer för att hantera spänningarna och identitetsutmaningar vilka uppstår i AW.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2020. , p. 117
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 2020:1
Keywords [en]
alternative workplace, workplace flexibility, new ways of working, activity-based work, collaborative space, tensions, paradoxes, space production, social space
Keywords [sv]
alternativ arbetsplats, flexibilitet på arbetsplatsen, nya arbetssätt, aktivitetsbaserat arbete, samarbetsutrymme, spänningar, paradoxer, skapande av rum, socialt utrymme
National Category
Social Sciences Economics and Business
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-266982ISBN: 978-91-7873-428-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-266982DiVA, id: diva2:1389270
Public defence
2020-02-20, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
EDIM - European Doctorate in Industrial ManagementAvailable from: 2020-01-29 Created: 2020-01-29 Last updated: 2020-01-29Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Collaborative workplaces for innovation in service companies: barriers and enablers for supporting new ways of working
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaborative workplaces for innovation in service companies: barriers and enablers for supporting new ways of working
2018 (English)In: Service Business: An International Journal, ISSN 1862-8516, E-ISSN 1862-8508, Vol. 12, no 3, p. 525-550Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The paper aims to provide a systematic overview of the barriers and enablers that contribute to the success or failure of collaborative workplaces initiatives aimed at fostering innovation in service companies. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with innovation managers, human resource managers and facility department executives from a sample of multi-national service companies. Its primary focus is on the workplace initiatives carried out in their Spanish subsidiaries. The paper contributes to the extant research by identifying a conceptual model for collaborative workplaces and by providing a systematic overview ofthe related barriers and enablers. From the interviews, these factors were organized within a framework usable by practitioners for analysis. This paper is of interest to companies that aim to design collaborative workplace strategies to justify associated investments. It can also provide their managers with guidelines to lead the company in the transition toward new ways of working based on higher employee collaborationand flexibility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Berlin/Heidelberg, 2018
Keywords
Collaborative workplace, Alternative workplace, New ways of working, Collaboration, Enablers, Barriers, Tensions, Service companies
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management; Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-226572 (URN)10.1007/s11628-017-0359-0 (DOI)000440150700005 ()2-s2.0-85040089173 (Scopus ID)
Note

This paper is produced as part of the EMJD Programme European Doctorate in Industrial Management (EDIM) funded by the European Commission. 

QC 20180424

Available from: 2018-04-20 Created: 2018-04-20 Last updated: 2020-02-03Bibliographically approved
2. Tensions as a framework for managing work in collaborative workplaces: A literature review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Tensions as a framework for managing work in collaborative workplaces: A literature review
(English)In: Article, review/survey (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Companies are increasingly implementing Collaborative Workplaces (CWs) to promote office collaboration and flexibility. Despite the rapid diffusion of CWs across industries and organizations, research findings suggest that their benefits often fail to materialize, due to the existence of tensions and contradictions that develop through the daily actions and interactions of workplace users. This literature review sheds some light on the development of tensions and contradictions in CWs by focusing on their implications for social relations at work. This review identifies the oppositional tensions that surface in CW research findings: flexibility vs. structure, fluidity vs. stability, and accessibility vs. privacy. In disclosing the underlying mechanisms, this study ties these tensions and their management to the autonomy-control paradox that emerges in CWs. It concludes by suggesting some approaches that are available to managers to deal with tensions and avoid inconsistencies.

Keywords
collaborative workplace, flexible office, tensions, contradictions, paradoxes, new ways of working
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-266962 (URN)
Note

QC 20200129

Available from: 2020-01-28 Created: 2020-01-28 Last updated: 2020-02-03Bibliographically approved
3. Living the Brave New Workplace: Territoriality, autonomy, and control in activity-based work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Living the Brave New Workplace: Territoriality, autonomy, and control in activity-based work
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-266963 (URN)
Note

QC 20200129

Available from: 2020-01-28 Created: 2020-01-28 Last updated: 2020-02-03Bibliographically approved
4. How alternative is the alternative workplace? Spaces for autonomy and control in the brave new office
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How alternative is the alternative workplace? Spaces for autonomy and control in the brave new office
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-266964 (URN)
Available from: 2020-01-28 Created: 2020-01-28 Last updated: 2020-02-03

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