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Policies in Activity-based Flexible Offices: ‘I am sloppy with clean-desking. We don’t really know the rules.’
KTH, School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health (CBH), Biomedical Engineering and Health Systems, Ergonomics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2691-3580
2018 (English)In: Ergonomics, ISSN 0014-0139, E-ISSN 1366-5847Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Activity-based Flexible Offices (A-FOs) are offices with unassigned desks that provide a variety of workspaces. This paper presents desk-sharing and speech rules identified in A-FOs in four Swedish organisations, the emergence of and compliance with these rules, and their consequences for work conditions. Data collection involved 105 semi-structured interviews, document analyses, and observations. The identified rules were: (1) to remove belongings, (2) temporal restrictions on using the same workstations, (3) temporal restrictions on using scarce zones, (4) restrictions on verbal interactions, and (5) restrictions on phone conversations. The cases with extensive user involvement in their planning process had explicit unambiguous rules. A better compliance with rules occurred when (i) the employees were well-prepared and had a unified understanding regarding how and why to follow the rules, (ii) the rules were explicitly communicated and were regarded as easy to follow, and (iii) following the rules facilitated work and improved work conditions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018.
Keywords [en]
Activity-based Working (ABW), desk-sharing and speech policies, planning process, work conditions, work environment design
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239408DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2018.1516805OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-239408DiVA, id: diva2:1265042
Funder
AFA Insurance, 130200
Note

QC 20181122

Available from: 2018-11-22 Created: 2018-11-22 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Activity-based Flexible Office work environments: Design and implementation processes and outcomes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Activity-based Flexible Office work environments: Design and implementation processes and outcomes
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: In recent years, there has been a reported increase in organizations relocating to Activity-based Flexible Offices (A-FOs) worldwide. The idea of A-FOs is to offer work conditions suitable for the workforce’s tasks and individual preferences. Benefits of the A-FO include employee autonomy, privacy and inter- and intra-team communication. However, there are reports within Swedish media on reduced performance, increased dissatisfaction, injustice, and workplace avoidance amongst employees occupying A-FOs. Added to which empirical research supporting A-FOs claimed benefits are scarce with inconsistent results.

Aim: The aim of this thesis is to explore and investigate perceptions of workspace, work conditions, work environment satisfaction, and perceived performance in A-FOs (aim of Studies I-V). Additionally, the sub-aims are to explore and investigate associations with underlying factors such as design and implementation process factors including methods suggestions (aims of Studies II, IV & VI), physical workspace factors (aim of Study III), desk-sharing and speech policies (aim of Study IV), and organizational preconditions (aim of Study V).  This thesis aims at integrating the contributions of each paper and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Method: A problem centered, pragmatic approach guided the methodological choices. Two in-depth longitudinal case (n=66 & 46) and two cross-sectional (n=202 & 105) studies were conducted at five single floor A-FOs. A mixed method approach was adopted comprising of six questionnaires, 105 individual interviews, documentation of plan layouts, photographs, planning documents and observations. A third cross-sectional study with 7 additional cases was conducted on 473-715 questionnaire responses.

Results & discussion: The results showed that work environment satisfaction and perceived performance can increase after relocation to A-FOs. Reported contributing design and implementation process factors included meaningful objectives for the employees, allocation of time and financial resources, having an organizational focus, employee empowerment, and a methodological approach. A methods framework divided into A-FO design stages is presented that can facilitate the design process of A-FOs. Reported contributing workspace design factors included ample desk-sharing ratios and workspace diversity. Desk-sharing and speech rules were identified: when to remove belongings, allowance to occupy the same workstation in open-plan and enclosed areas on consecutive days, and allocations of areas where speaking on the phone, and verbal interaction with colleagues and interruptions are allowed or forbidden. Organizational preconditions, such as innovative work tasks and an open-plan office type prior to relocation were associated with preference for the A-FO.

Conclusion: Design and implementation factors, workspace factors, application of rules and organizational preconditions are possible predictors of work conditions, work environment satisfaction, and perceived performance. A-FOs can be perceived as noisy workplaces that create extra work, decrease interaction as well as increase uncertainty on how to act within the office. However, A-FOs can also be preferred above other office types and be perceived with high work environment satisfaction and perceived performance. This thesis has stressed the importance of a holistic sociotechnical perspective during A-FO implementations, and the importance of employee involvement and empowerment, workspace diversity and desk-sharing policies.

Abstract [sv]

Bakgrund: Under senare år har andelen företag som flyttar till aktivitetsbaserade kontor ökat över hela världen för att bättre stödja nya sätt att arbeta. Det aktivitetsbaserade kontoret (ABW) föreslås medge hög arbetsmiljötillfredsställelse och prestation genom att tillhandahålla arbetsförhållanden som passar olika arbetsuppgifter och individuella preferenser. Exempelvis kan autonomi, avskildhet och kommunikation främjas. Dock rapporterar svensk media om medarbetares låga prestation, missnöje och upplevelse av orättvisa i ABWs och att medarbetare undviker sin arbetsplats. 

Syfte: Denna avhandling syftar till att utforska och undersöka arbetsförhållanden, medarbetares tillfredsställelse av arbetsmiljön och prestation i aktivitetsbaserade kontor, samt deras associationer till underliggande faktorer såsom processfaktorer, utformningsfaktorer, regler och organisatoriska förutsättningar. Avhandlingen avser att integrera artikelbidragen och att helheten ska vara större än summan av delarna.

Metod: En problemcentrerad, pragmatisk ansats har väglett de metodologiska valen. Grundliga longitudinella fallstudier och genomsnittsstudier genomfördes hos organisationer med aktivitetsbaserade kontor på ett våningsplan. En mixed method-ansats användes bestående av 6 enkätutskick, 105 intervjuer, dokumentation av planritningar, fotografier och planeringsdokument, samt observationer. En tredje tvärsnittsstudie genomfördes med ytterligare 7 fall med total 473-715 enkätsvar.

Resultat & diskussion: Resultaten visade att arbetsmiljötillfredsställelse och upplevd prestation kan öka efter flytt till ABW. Faktorer inom planeringsprocessen, såsom meningsfulla mål för medarbetarna, tilldelning av tid och finansiella resurser, fokus kring organisatoriska förändringar, medarbetares delaktighet och ett metodiskt tillvägagångssätt föreslogs relatera till goda utfall. För att underlätta i planeringsprocessen presenterades ett ramverk med metoder indelade i kontors olika planeringsfaser. Föreslagna utformningsfaktorer var att medge låg täckningsgrad av arbetsplatser och varierade akustiska arbetsmiljöer. Resultaten pekade på att regler behöver diskuteras och tydligt uttryckas, till exempel om medarbetarna får använda samma arbetsplats i öppna och avskärmade ytor flera dagar i rad och var medarbetarna får prata med varandra i telefon och var man får avbryta varandra för att ställa frågor. Den organisatoriska kontexten, såsom hög frekvens av innovativa arbetsuppgifter, stark kultur och att ha ett öppet kontor innan förändringen föreslogs också relatera till hög arbetsmiljötillfredsställelse i ABWs.

Konklusion: Planeringsfaktorer, utformningsfaktorer, tillämpning av regler och organisatoriska förutsättningar är möjliga prediktorer för arbetsförhållanden, arbetsmiljötillfredsställelse och upplevd prestation. ABWs kan medge oljud, skapa extra arbete, minska interaktion och skapa osäkerhet kring hur man bör agera. Dock kan ABWs föredras framför andra kontorstyper och upplevas medge hög prestation och arbetsmiljötillfredsställelse. Denna avhandling betonar vikten av ett sociotekniskt helhetsperspektiv under planering och implementering av ABWs och vikten av medarbetares involvering och påverkansmöjligheter, mångfald i typer av arbetsmiljöer och tydliga förhållningsregler kring delandet av arbetsplatser.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018. p. 98
Series
TRITA-CBH-FOU ; 2018:52
Keywords
Activity-based working, ABW, New ways of working (NWW), hot-desking, clean desk, office policies, workspace, office layout, office design, office planning process, organizational change, conceptual framework for office design, office planning, Aktivitetsbaserade kontor, ABW, Nya sätt att arbeta (NWW), flexibelt arbete, förhållningsregler, kontorsutformning, organisationsförändring, konceptuellt ramverk för kontorsplanering, planeringsprocessen
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Research subject
Technology and Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239417 (URN)978-91-7729-999-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-12-14, T1, Hälsovägen 11 C, Huddinge, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
AFA Insurance, 130200
Note

QC 20181122

Available from: 2018-11-22 Created: 2018-11-22 Last updated: 2018-11-30Bibliographically approved

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