ArticlePDF Available


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact office layout has on office occupiers' productivity. Design/methodology/approach – The paper evaluates the literature that claims to make a linkage between the office layout and the effect on office occupiers' productivity. Two main themes are developed. First, the literature that links office layout to work patterns is evaluated, and second, the open‐plan office vs cellular office debate is developed. Findings – The review of the literature reveals that the connection between the three major components of office layout, office occupiers' work patterns and productivity is not clearly established. Originality/value – The paper establishes that there is a requirement to link together office layout to the work patterns of office occupiers. It is only when the connection is made between the office layout and the office occupiers' work patterns that productivity gains can be achieved. To support the different work patterns undertaken, the facilities manager can create office environments that consist of a balance between private space and communal shared space. The amount of balance will be very much dependent on the mix of the work patterns in the office.
The impact of office layout
on productivity
Barry P. Haynes
Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact office layout has on office occupiers’
Design/methodology/approach The paper evaluates the literature that claims to make a linkage
between the office layout and the effect on office occupiers’ productivity. Two main themes are
developed. First, the literature that links office layout to work patterns is evaluated, and second,
the open-plan office vs cellular office debate is developed.
Findings The review of the literature reveals that the connection between the three major
components of office layout, office occupiers’ work patterns and productivity is not clearly established.
Originality/value The paper establishes that there is a requirement to link together office layout
to the work patterns of office occupiers. It is only when the connection is made between the office
layout and the office occupiers’ work patterns that productivity gains can be achieved. To support the
different work patterns undertaken, the facilities manager can create office environments that consist
of a balance between private space and communal shared space. The amount of balance will be very
much dependent on the mix of the work patterns in the office.
Keywords Workplace, Office buildings, Office management, Office layout, Employee productivity
Paper type Literature review
This paper aims to review the literature that claims to link the layout of the office
environment to the productivity of its occupants. The office layout discussion will
include the open-plan office vs cellular office debate, and also the matching of the office
environment to different work patterns. The difficulty in evaluating the literature is
connected to consistency. It is clear that while terms such as open-plan and cellular
offices are used frequently, there does not appear to be universally accepted definitions
of these terms. Similarly, the term productivity is used, although the definition and the
means of measurement still remains ill defined (Haynes, 2007a).
The debate in the literature that attempts to link the layout of the office environment
and the performance of the occupiers tends to centre around the issue of open-plan
offices vs cellular offices (Haynes et al., 2000), and attempts to match the office
environment to the work processes (Stallworth & Ward, 1996; Laing et al., 1998;
Mawson, 2002). International architectural firm, (Gensler (2005)) highlights the
financial impact of poorly designed offices claiming that:
Poorly designed offices could be costing British business up to £135 billion every year
(Gensler, 2005).
Gensler (2005) identified six themes from their research. A summary of these and some
of the major findings are highlighted in Table I.
The research by Gensler (2005) identifies the impact the office working environment
has on improving productivity (potentially a 19 per cent increase) and job satisfaction
(79 per cent of respondents linked their environment to their job satisfaction).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Impact of office
Journal of Facilities Management
Vol. 6 No. 3, 2008
pp. 189-201
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14725960810885961
Gensler (2005) established a linkage between the working environment, human
resources and business strategy:
Working environment has a fundamental impact on recruitment, retention, productivity and
ultimately on the organisation’s ability to achieve it business strategy (Gensler, 2005).
The research by Gensler (2005) was based on a survey of 200 middle and senior
managers in the legal, media and financial sectors. It is acknowledged, however, that this
is not a large sample size, and the sample measures the perceptions of professionals and
not direct measurements of productivity. Finally, the £135 billion cost to British
businesses was based on a 19 per cent increase in the UK service sector gross added
value. While the actual value of productivity loss can be questioned, Gensler identified a
clear need for research that investigates the link between productivity and office layout.
Through a succinct literature review, this paper demonstrates the complexity that
researchers have to address in establishing a link between office layout and productivity.
Office layout and organisational performance
Research that investigated the impact of open-plan measures and the effectiveness of
facilities space management was undertaken by Ilozor and Oluwoye (1999). They
collected data from 102 open-plan offices from commercial office buildings in the
central business district of Sydney, Australia. The data were collected using a
questionnaire design, and completed by the facilities manager responsible for the office
environment. Ilozor and Oluwoye (1999) presented a conceptual model that attempts to
link the following variables:
(1) Open-plan measures.
(2) Management control.
(3) Effectiveness of facilities space management.
In assessing staff productivity, Ilozor and Oluwoye (1999, p. 239) used the following
question, which was scaled either yes or no, in their assessment on the effectiveness of
facilities space management:
Practice of measuring staff productivity.
The productivity leap A better working environment would increase employee
productivity by 19 per cent
Workplace matters Four out of five (79 per cent) professionals say the quality of their
working environment is very important to their sense of job
Brand control Professionals are split 50/50 as to whether their workplace
enhances their company’s brand
Work styles/workspaces Personal space (39 per cent), climate control (24 per cent) and
daylight (21 per cent) are the most important factors in a good
working environment according to professional surveyed
The creative office 38 per cent of professionals believe it is difficult to be creative and
innovative in their office
The “Thinking Time” directive 78 per cent of professionals say increasing work pressure means
they have less time to think than five years ago
Table I.
Summary of Gensler
research findings
Ilozor and Oluwoye (1999, p. 244) concluded their analysis by stating that:
A greater perceived support on informal meetings by open-plan workspace is associated with
increased measuring of staff productivity.
While this research appears to offer evidence for a more productive workplace, care
needs to be taken in how far the results can be generalised. First, the study was
undertaken in the business district of Sydney, and therefore any generalisation would
have to be confined to similar commercial offices. Second, the productivity question
only assesses if the office adopts a staff productivity measure, not a productivity
measure in itself. Finally, and probably the main limitation of the research, the
respondents were facilities managers and not the actual occupants of the office
Ilozor et al. (2002) attempted to make the connection between the use of innovative
work settings and improved organisational performance. The research was based on
102 work settings, with several null hypotheses on innovative work settings and
organisational performance being tested for statistical differences using the
Kruskal-Wallis H-test. In contrast to previous published research (Ilozor & Oluwoye,
1999), Ilozor et al. (2002) included a measure of the level of productivity. Although they
do not make clear how the level of productivity was actually measured, one of the
conclusions drawn by Ilozor et al. (2002) was that:
The more a work setting is perceived to be innovative in terms of fostering staff
interaction, the greater the measuring of staff productivity and the level of productivity (Ilozor
et al., 2002).
This conclusion illustrates the use of innovative environments as a means of
enabling greater interaction between office occupiers. This result also starts to give
an indication as to the ingredients required when considering a creative and
productive workplace. Ilozor et al. (2002) concluded that the physical properties of
the office environments can be used to influence organisational performance. While
this analysis is more developed than previous research undertaken (Ilozor and
Oluwoye, 1999), it does suffer from the same main critique, which is that the data
appear to be collected from facilities managers and not from the office occupiers
Changing the workplace environment as an aid to organisational change is
supported by Allen et al. (2004). They evaluated a number of UK Government case
studies and propose that the workplace layout can be used to increase collaboration
and openness, thereby enabling improved organisational performance.
The notion that the workplace should not hinder an organisation’s ability to
respond to the changing business world was developed by Bradley and Hood
(2003). They developed the idea of workspace flexibility (Becker, 2002) by
proposing a minimalist approach to office design. Their main proposal was the
need to keep the office free of clutter, which can restrict the organisation’s ability to
adapt and respond quickly to market forces. Bradley and Hood (2003) proposed
that to ensure the workplace improves corporate agility four golden rules should be
(1) Systematically and frequently purge “stuff” to enable mobility.
(2) Design for “busyness in order to keep a “buzz”.
Impact of office
(3) Reduce bespoke fixed fit-out components and adopt relocatable components.
(4) Systematically evaluate the utilisation of space and technology alongside
shifting work practices.
While it may appear that the four golden rules represent good housekeeping, the final
golden rule supports the notion that the office environment should be designed, and
adapted, to support the work processes, the aim being to minimise the mismatch
between the office environment and the work processes (Mawson, 2002).
Aligning office layout and work processes
Previously, authors such as Stallworth and Kleiner (1996) have talked about
“person-environment fit” (p. 36), and Mawson (2002) claimed that productivity losses
could be attributed to a mismatch between the office environment and the work
undertaken in that environment:
Contrast this with the approach taken to designing a manufacturing plant where detailed
consideration would be given to the processes to be performed within the building, before
then designing back from these to get the best fit (Mawson, 2002, p. 1).
Research undertaken by DEGW and Building Research Establishment attempted to
address the issue of matching the work processes and the office environment (Laing
et al., 1998). The research question adopted was:
Most office buildings and their environmental systems were designed for typical 9 to 5
activities, but how will they perform when that pattern of use changes? (Laing et al., 1998, p. 1).
The research undertaken attempted to address the issue of organisational work patterns
and the working environment. Three components (affinities) were investigated in
greater detail:
(1) Work patterns.
(2) Building types.
(3) HVAC systems.
The results included an assessment of the three components (affinities), to identify the
optimum correlation of the working environment for the work patterns.
To help in understanding the various work patterns four new metaphors were
developed by Laing et al. (1998, p. 2124). They were:
Hive: The hive office organization is characterized by individual routine process work with
low levels of interaction and individual autonomy. The office worker sits at simple
workstations for continuous periods of time on a regular 9 to 5 schedule (variants of this type
include 24-hour shift working.
Cell: The cell office organization is for individual concentrated work with little interaction.
Highly autonomous individuals occupy the office in an intermittent irregular pattern with
extended working days, working elsewhere some of the time (possibly at home, at clients, or
on the road).
Den: The den office organization is associated with group process work, interactive but not
necessarily highly autonomous. The space is designed for group working with a range of
several simple settings, typically arranged in the open-plan or group room.
Club: The club office organization is for knowledge work: both highly autonomous and highly
interactive. The pattern of occupancy is intermittent and over an extended working day.
A variety of shared task based settings serve both concentrated individual and group
interactive work.
Laing et al. (1998) used the work patterns to suggest four correspondingly different
physical environments, with the inference that an optimal match between process and
environment can be made. Laing et al. (1998) offered a simple model to represent
office-based work. The model was based on the amount of face-to-face interaction in
the office, and the amount of flexibility the occupier has to work when, where and how
they wish, i.e. autonomy. The limitations of this work, as acknowledged by the authors,
were that the results were based on a small-scale study, i.e. eight case studies. Also,
while the research addressed the issue of the working environment and the work
processes, it did not directly address the working environment and workplace
In an attempt to include the productivity measurement, Haynes (2005) adopted the
work pattern categories proposed by Laing et al. (1998) and evaluated the impact of
office layout on office occupiers’ perceived productivity. Applying ANOVA tests to the
four different work patterns identified the transactional knowledge worker grouping to
be a statistically significant different grouping, and the only work pattern to perceive
their office layout to be having a positive effect on their productivity (Haynes, 2005).
All the other work pattern categories perceived office layout to be generally having a
negative impact on their productivity (Haynes, 2005). This result on its own has a large
implication, as it indicates a mismatch between the office environment and the work
undertaken in the office (Mawson, 2002). It can be concluded that office environments
are being designed without a detailed appreciation of the occupiers’ proposed use of
space (Peterson and Beard, 2004). An opportunity exists to ensure that office occupiers
are consulted at all stages of the design process to ensure that the optimum office
layout is achieved (Burke and Chidambaram, 1999; Laframboise et al., 2003).
Open-plan offices vs cellular offices
BOSTI associates, led by Michael Brill, have undertaken two major pieces of research
into the effects the workplace has on worker performance. The first piece of research
took place in the 1980s and collected data from 10,000 workers in 100 organisations.
The findings of this study were published in a two-volume publication entitled
“Using Office Design to Increase Productivity” (Brill et al., 1985). The second piece of
research took place between 1994 and 2000 and created a database of 13,000 cases
(Brill et al., 2001). This second wave of research acknowledged that much had changed.
The four main trends that where driving workplace changes were identified as
(Brill et al., 2001, p. 5):
(1) Organisational structure and strategies.
(2) Workforce attitudes and expectations.
(3) Technology its ever-increasing power and widespread deployment.
(4) New recognitions about, and strategies for, the workplace.
Included in the second piece of research were evaluations of individual performance,
team performance and job satisfaction. With regard to office setting, the study
Impact of office
collected data on single-occupant rooms, double-occupant rooms and open-plan office.
In addition, Brill et al. (2001, p. 17) proposed some useful definitions for their research:
Workplace: A general term for the entire physical environment for work[...] the whole floor,
whole building, and whole campus. The work-place always contains large numbers of
Workspace: The space where an employee sits (mostly) when in the office.
Private (Cellular) Office: A workspace that has four walls to the ceiling and a door.
Open (Plan) Office: A workspace whose perimeter boundaries do not go to the ceiling.
Brill et al. (2001, p. 19) proposed that analysis of the full dataset identified ten of the
most important workplace qualities in rank order:
(1) Ability to do distraction-free solo work.
(2) Support for impromptu interactions.
(3) Support for meetings and undistracted group work.
(4) Workspace comfort, ergonomics and enough space for work tools.
(5) Workspace side-by-side work and “dropping into chat”.
(6) Located near or can easily find co-workers.
(7) Workplace has good places for breaks.
(8) Access to needed technology.
(9) Quality lighting and access to daylight.
(10) Temperature control and air quality.
The top two-workplace qualities relate to the specific work processes. Office workers
want to be able to undertake distraction-free solo work, but also value the opportunity
to have an informal interaction with colleagues. Haynes (2007b) provided supporting
evidence by identifying distraction as the component to be having the most negative
impact on perceived productivity and interaction to be having the most positive impact
on perceived productivity.
Clearly there can be tensions in an office environment to allow individual private
working to co-exist with collaborative team based working.
Brill et al. (2001, p. 26) explored the issue of distraction further by investigating the
amount of distraction by office type.
Table II illustrates that increasing the number of occupants in an office environment
increases the amount of reported distraction caused by other people’s conversations.
Becker (2004) shared the same concerns as Brill et al. (2001) with regard to open-plan
environments, especially open-plan environments that contain cubicles:
Rarely distracted (per cent) Frequently distracted (per cent)
Single-room occupant 48 29
Double-room occupant 30 52
Open-plan office 19 65
Source: Brill et al. (2001)
Table II.
Type of office and
distraction by other
peoples conversations
Research by Michael Brill and his associates as well as our own studies show that despite all
the furniture, technical and social fixes that been tried to render cubicles more acceptable to
employees, on the whole cubicles flunk (Becker, 2004, p. 25).
BOSTI Associates made the following claim, having analysed all the data from their
vast database:
The really groovy, wide-open office, with folks shown interacting informally all day is a
visually seductive myth. Research shows it doesn’t support work very well and, in fact, can
incur significant losses in individual and team performance and job satisfaction (Brill et al.,
2000, p. 36).
Brennan et al. (2002) presented findings from a longitudinal study that aimed to evaluate
the transition of office occupiers from traditional cellular offices to an open-plan office
environment. The measurement intervals adopted were before the move, four weeks
after the move and six months after the move. Although 80 questionnaires were
distributed at the interval points, only 21 participants responded to all three intervals.
Acknowledging the small sample size as one of the limitations of the study, the results
have the benefit of being time series. The study included measures of satisfaction with
the physical environment, physical stress, relations with team members and perceived
performance. The performance measure adopted was a self-assessed measure, but had
the benefit of being assessed on a 20-item scale:
Perceived performance was assessed through a 20-item subscale consisting of items such as
I am able to stay focused and on task at work and I am able to complete my planned tasks for
the day (Brennan et al., 2002, p. 289).
The main conclusion drawn from the study was that the office occupiers were
dissatisfied with their move to a new open-plan environment, and that dissatisfaction
did not improve after the six-month adjustment period. Brennan et al. (2002) concluded
that the respondents found the openness of the environment counter productive
in terms of increased disturbance and distractions. One of the limitations of the study
was that the respondents were not subdivided into different work process; therefore
comparisons between work processes could not be made. One of the main limitations of
the study, acknowledged by the authors, was the lack of a control group. The inclusion
of a control group would have allowed comparisons between the test group and the
control group to be made. Therefore, the comparisons would have established if the
dissatisfaction was as a cause of the open-plan environment, or as a result of an
intervening variable such as organisational issues.
The office environment can be used to establish brand identity, as well as a tool to
attract and retain quality staff (Becker, 2002). Becker (2002) argued that the layout and
use of the office can also provide workplace flexibility, thereby allowing firms to
change and adapt without being restricted by office space. Moreover, Becker argued
that open-plan environments are a less expensive solution over time, as they require
minimum alteration since occupiers can adopt a “hotelling” policy. The idea of
“zero-time” space solution was introduced with the principles being that the space does
not change over time, but the space policy does, i.e. employee desk ratio. While Becker
(2002) advocated non-territorial offices, no viable office protocols were presented
(Laframboise et al., 2003). It should also be acknowledged that while Becker’s (2002)
idea of a non-territorial office with everyone adopting a hotelling policy may sound
Impact of office
attractive in providing the organisation with workplace flexibility, none of the firms
studied actually adopted hotelling practices (Becker, 2002).
Aligning office layout and human behaviour
The trend towards open-plan environments has largely been driven by organisations
aiming to reduce accommodation costs (Marquardt et al., 2002; Veitch et al., 2002;
Haynes, 2007c). Veitch et al. (2002) argued that facilities managers have responded to
such pressure by creating open-plan environments with reduced space allocations. They
suggested that by adopting the cost reduction paradigm, organisations run the risk of
creating office environments that are ultimately uncomfortable and unworkable. Veitch
et al. (2002) maintained that the effects on the individual could be direct, caused by
adverse physical conditions, or indirect through psychological process such as lack of
privacy or stress.
To establish the effects of the open-plan environment on occupier satisfaction Veitch
et al. (2002) collected data from 419 respondents located across three government offices.
Both physical measurements were made, such as temperature, lighting, noise,
ventilation and workstation details, as well as occupiers completing a 27-item
questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 18 questions relating to satisfaction with
the environment, 2 questions relating to overall satisfaction with the environment and 2
relating to job satisfaction.
Using factor analysis, Veitch et al. (2002) created a three-factor model to represent
the satisfaction with the open-plan office environments (Table III). While the lighting
and ventilation factors clearly represent satisfaction with the physical environment,
the inclusion of the privacy component broadens the debate to include the behavioural
environment (Haynes, 2007d).
While the espoused organisational benefits of open-plan environments relate to
improved teamwork and communication (Van der Voordt, 2004), the actual effects
experienced by the occupier can be that of increased crowding and loss of privacy:
Open-plan and shared offices have most complaints about lack of privacy people have
difficulty concentrating, dealing with personal matters and colleagues’ annoying habits
(Nathan and Doyle, 2002, p. 26).
Satisfaction Items
Satisfaction with privacy Visual privacy, conversational privacy, amount of
noise from others’ conversations, amount of
background noise; amount of distraction,
workstation size, degree of enclosure, ability to alter
conditions; distance between co-workers; and
aesthetic appearance
Satisfaction with lighting Lighting quality, quantity of light on the desk,
quantity of light for computer work, computer glare
and access to a view
Satisfaction with ventilation Air quality, temperature and air movement
Source: Veitch et al. (2002)
Table III.
Satisfaction with
environment: a
three-factor model
Nathan and Doyle (2002) acknowledged that reducing the space allocation of
individuals in the office environment can have both a positive and negative effect on
office occupier’s ability to do their jobs. The effect on the office occupier will be
dependent on the complexity of the task involved:
High density environments or environments that people feel are crowded seem to
make complex tasks harder to do. But simple tasks become easier to do (Nathan & Doyle,
2002, p. 26).
The effects of open-plan environments are acknowledged by Van der Voordt (2004),
who proposed that office occupiers in an open-plan environment experience an increase
in stimuli, both visual and acoustic, than occupiers working in enclosed cellular offices.
He further proposed that office occupiers can respond in different ways to the increase
in stimuli, with some perceiving the increase in stimuli in a positive ways, while others
perceive the increase in stimuli as a mental burden that raises their stress levels
(Van der Voordt, 2004).
While the aim of a high-performance workplace would be to match the requirements
of the individuals, and their work process, to the physical environment, the
consequences of creating an office environment which is a mismatch could have an
effect on both the health of the individual and their performance levels:
Badly-designed or managed workplaces damage staff physical and mental well being
(Nathan and Doyle, 2002, p. 2).
Van der Voordt (2004) evaluated two Dutch case studies that had attempted to measure
the effects of innovative workplace design on productivity. While Van der Voordt
(2004) identified the potential weakness of using perceptional measures of
productivity, and calls for a number of indicators to be used, the case studies used
adopted a perceived productivity measure. One of the case studies reported an increase
in perceived productivity, with the others reporting a decrease in productivity.
Van der Voordt (2004) concluded that the differing responses can partly be explained
by different initial situations. Although it is not explicitly stated, it appears that the
inference is that the case study reporting a positive result was initially in an open-plan
environment, whereas the negative case study was probably in cellular offices. This
clearly illustrates the need to integrate a change management process into a relocation
project (Laframboise et al., 2003).
From the results of the case studies, and a workshop exercise with experts,
Van der oordt (2004) presented a summary of the positive and negative effects on work
processes of innovative workplaces (Table IV).
Van der Voordt (2004) attempted to address two major issues that are specifically
related to office layout. First, it was proposed that there is an increase in shared areas,
and a reduction in fixed dedicated workplaces. This approach replicated the ideas of a
non-territorial office as presented by Becker (1990). The second issue addressed relates
to the debate between open-plan offices vs cellular offices, where Van der Voordt (2004)
acknowledged the advantages and disadvantages of each environment. He concluded
that it is important to create an environment that allows occupiers to transfer
information, while also accepting that there is a requirement for concentrated work.
To resolve the potential tensions between the work process demand and the office
environment provision Van der Voordt (2004) proposed the use of a combi-office:
Impact of office
One of the main reasons for using combi-offices, with a mix of shared and activity-related
workplaces, has been to overcome the disadvantages of office units (too closed, poor
conditions for social interaction) and open-plan offices (too open, too many distractions)
(Van der Voordt, 2004, p. 145).
The combi-office approach appears to address the concerns of mismatching the office
layout and the work processes; it even offers a potential solution to the behavioural
issues. However, establishing the right balance of private and shared areas requires a
detailed evaluation of user needs. Once the space is created, there will be an additional
demand to constantly evaluate and manage the office space. This highlights a need for
active workplace management to ensure that the office environment constantly
remains supportive of organisational and individual needs.
In conclusion
The office layout literature can be subdivided into two key themes:
(1) literature that addresses the open-plan office vs cellular office debate; and
(2) literature that matches the office layout to the work patterns of its occupants.
While the open-plan office vs cellular office debate can tend to reinforce the prevailing
paradigm of cost reduction (more people in less space), the issues of matching the
office layout to different work patterns develops the human contribution debate (CABE,
2005; Haynes, 2007c). This changing emphasis allows consideration to be given to
understanding how office occupiers actually use space. This view of office environments
from the occupier perspective opens up an appreciation of the behavioural environment
(Haynes, 2007d). It is starting to emerge that any theoretical framework for office
productivity must consist of both the physical environment and the behavioural
environment, and in addition must accommodate the different work patterns that office
occupiers can adopt.
There is a clear need for a unifying measure of office productivity (Haynes, 2007a).
The lack of a universally accepted measurement of productivity means that like-for-like
comparisons of research projects are limited. It is proposed that in the absence of a
quantifiable productivity measurement, a self-assessed measure is a justifiable
consideration (Haynes, 2008).
To increase the transparency for research findings, there is a need for office productivity
researchers to be explicit with regard to their definitions of the office environment.
Positive Negative
Free choice of appropriate workplace More time spent on organising work
Culture change: work more consciously Loss of time used for installation (logging on,
adjusting furniture, tidying up)
Stimulus to work in a more organised way Acclimatising time and again (different
workplace, varying colleagues next to you)
No space for saving things, so you have to
finish them
More time required to look up and store
Source: Van der Voordt (2004)
Table IV.
Productivity effects
on work processes
Ideally, universally accepted definitions of private office, grouped office and open-plan
offices would assist in this matter. It should also be accepted that the definitions should not
be restricted to the number of people working in the environment but also include their level
of office density.
Categorising office occupiers by their actual work process is a useful way of
identifying the need of office occupiers. The interaction vs autonomy model proposed
by Laing et al. (1998) allows four distinct work patterns to be identified. However,
further research is required to establish whether these work patterns can be further
subdivided, enabling a wider range of work patterns to be developed, and including
possible future trends. In addition, other categories could be established by taking
into account the personality type and the team role type of the office worker
(Haynes, 2007b).
Once clearer classifications of work patterns and preferred work styles are obtained,
evaluations of different settings against the work patterns can be undertaken.
However, to enable linkages to be made between the work stetting and the work
pattern, consideration needs to given to the management of the office space. The aim
being to establish whether the office environment is being actively managed through
office protocols and office productivity evaluations.
There is a need to research how organisational culture, more specifically office
culture, and management style link to office productivity. The development of
management style and cultural metrics would greatly assist in understanding the
behavioural environment. Aligned to this kind of research, and a possible linkage
between the physical environment and the behavioural environment, would be an
evaluation of how cultural cues are sent through the use of the physical environment.
An area that needs further research is the balance between individual private
working and collaborative team-based working. This type of research would require a
greater understanding of the social dynamics within an office environment. To aid this
understanding, consideration would have to be given to the social and behavioural
networks created in an office environment.
Allen, T., Bell, A., Graham, R., Hardy, B. and Swaffer, F. (2005), Working without Walls:
An Insight into the Transforming Government Workplace, Office of Government
Commerce, London.
Becker, F. (1990), The Total Workplace: Facilities Management and the Elastic Organization,
Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY.
Becker, F. (2002), “Improving organisational performance by exploiting workplace flexibility”,
Journal of Facilities Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 154-62.
Becker, F. (2004), Offices at Work, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
Bradley, S. and Hood, C. (2003), “Delivering minimalist workplaces that improve corporate
agility”, Journal of Facilities Management, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 68-84.
Brennan, A., Chugh, J. and Kline, T. (2002), “Traditional versus open office design: a longitudinal
field study”, Environment & Behavior, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 279-99.
Brill, M., Weidemann and the BOSTI Associates (2001), Disproving Widespread Myths about
Workplace Design, Kimball International, Jasper.
Impact of office
Brill, M., Keable, E. and Fabiniak, J. (2000), “The myth of open plan”, Facilities Design and
Management, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 36-9.
Brill, M., Marguilis, S.T., Konar, E. and BOSTI (1985), Using Office Design to Increase
Productivity, Vol. 1&2, Workplace Design and Productivity Inc., Buffalo, NY.
Burke, K. and Chidambaram, L. (1999), “An assessment of change in behavioral dynamics among
computer-supported groups: different factors change at different rates”, Industrial
Management & Data Systems, Vol. 99 No. 7, pp. 288-95.
CABE (2005), The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance, The Commission for
Architecture and the Built Environment and the British Council for Offices, London.
Gensler (2005), These Four Walls: The Real British Office, Gensler, London.
Haynes, B.P. (2005), “Workplace connectivity: a study of its impact on self-assessed
productivity”, PhD thesis, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield.
Haynes, B.P. (2007a), “An evaluation of office productivity measurement”, Journal of Corporate
Real Estate, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 144-55.
Haynes, B. (2007b), “Office productivity: a theoretical framework”, Journal of Corporate Real
Estate, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 97-110.
Haynes, B. (2007c), “Office productivity: a shift from cost reduction to human contribution”,
Facilities, Vol. 25 Nos 11/12, pp. 452-62.
Haynes, B. (2007d), “The impact of the behavioural environment on office productivity”, Journal
of Facilities Management, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 158-71.
Haynes, B. (2008), “The impact of office comfort on productivity”, Journal of Facilities
Management, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 37-51.
Haynes, B., Matzdorf, F., Nunnington, N., Ogunmakin, C., Pinder, J. and Price, I. (2000),
Does Property Benefit Occupiers? An Evaluation of the Literature, Report No. 1, available at:
Ilozor, B.D. and Oluwoye, J.O. (1999), “Open-plan measures in the determination of facilities space
management”, Facilities, Vol. 17 Nos 7/8, pp. 237-45.
Ilozor, B.D., Love, P.E.D. and Treloar, G. (2002), “The impact of work settings on organisational
performance measures in built facilities”, Facilities, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 61-7.
Laframboise, D., Nelson, R.L. and Schmaltz, J. (2003), “Managing resistance to change in workplace
accommodation projects”, Journal of Facilities Management, Vol. 1 No. 5, pp. 306-21.
Laing, A., Duffy, F., Jaunzens, D. and Willis, S. (1998), New Environments for Working:
The Redesign of Offices and the Environmental Systems for New Ways of Working, E. and
F.N. Spon, London.
Marquardt, C.J.G., Veitch, J.A. and Charles, K.E. (2002), Environmental Satisfaction with
Open-Plan Office Furniture Design and Layout, IRC-RR-106, Institute for Research in
Construction, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.
Mawson, A. (2002), The Workplace and its Impact on Productivity, Advanced Workplace
Associates, London, available at:
Nathan, M. and Doyle, J. (2002), The State of the Office: The Politics and Geography of Working
Space, Industrial Society, London.
Stallworth, O.E. and Ward, L.M. (1996), “Recent developments in office design”, Facilities, Vol. 14
Nos 1/2, pp. 34-42.
Van der Voordt, T.J.M. (2004), “Productivity and employee satisfaction in flexible workplaces”,
Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 6 No. 2, p. 133.
Veitch, J.A., Farley, K.M.F. and Newsham, G.R. (2002), Environmental Satisfaction with
Open-plan Environments: 1. Scale Validation and Methods, IRC-IR-844, Institute for
Research in Construction, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.
Further reading
Bradley, S. (2002), What’s working: briefing and evaluating workplace performance
improvement”, Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 150-9.
About the author
Barry P. Haynes is a Principal Lecturer at the Sheffield Hallam University where he teaches real
estate and facilities management. He has published articles relating to the productivity of the
working environment and has presented papers at a number of conferences. He is active in the
British Institute of Facilities Management, where he serves on the Professional Standards and
Education committee. He also performs the role of external examiner for the University of
Reading. Barry P. Haynes can be contacted at
Impact of office
To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail:
Or visit our web site for further details:
... IEQ is highly associated with improving and enhancing occupant's productivity (B. P. Haynes, 2008b). This study addresses the challenging issue of Occupant Productivity (OP) in the workplace considering the precautionary measures during the spread of Coronavirus . ...
... The main theme and contribution of this study is to fill two gaps, the first one is theoretical gaps between studies that have focused on the impact of only one component of IEQ and occupant's productivity as (B. P. Haynes, 2008b;Seddigh et al., 2014;Wargocki et al., 2000;Wheeler & Almeida, 2006), in addition to the gap of the studies investigating the role of IEQ in overcoming COVID−19 challenges in the workplace (Afful et al., 2022;Amerio et al., 2020;Golberstein et al., 2020;Hoisington et al., 2019;Serafini et al., 2020). This research aims to establish IEQ through full framework that effectively supports the occupants' productivity in a changing environment with an integrated and comprehensive view of developing IEQ and support occupant's productivity. ...
... Small increases in productivity, are enough to justify additional capital expenditure to improve the quality of the building's services (Clements-Croome, 2018). The studies of B. P. Haynes (2008aHaynes ( , 2008b mentioned that a self-assessed measure of productivity is considered an acceptable approach. Ultimately, this results in establishing and supporting IEQ, which leads to reductions in energy consumption and maintenance costs. ...
... Offices are often designed to meet a functional and organisational requirement for workspaces. Numerous studies have analysed effective spatial layouts in an aspect of work performance (Haynes et al., 2017;Haynes, 2008;Rolfö et al., 2018). Chapter 6 analysed the impact of office design factors on user satisfaction. ...
Chapter 6 showed that the office layout and desk location were the most influential design factors for the thermal and visual comfort of users, and layout and orientation were most influential for psychological comfort in office buildings. Office design parameters were analysed to optimise user satisfaction in relation to indoor environmental and organisational quality in office buildings by showing predictable models. However, the predicted satisfaction models had not been tested in terms of energy performance. Therefore, this chapter evaluates the energy performance of the predicted models by computational assessment.a Section 7.2 explains the energy simulation scheme, model typologies, and simulation parameters. Section 7.3 presents the comparison of energy simulation results based on three design factors such as office layout, orientation and WWR. The results present the differences of the energy demand according to the alternative office typologies and contribution of design factors. The annual energy demand of 24 models are compared on the basis of different model typologies, and present the most energy-efficient typologies in section 7.4.
... Traditionally, in HE, academic staff have been primarily seen to carry out what is termed 'knowledge work' (Drucker, 1959;Davenport, 2005); applying their mental faculties to understand ding and use of information, decision making, and with high levels of creativity (Oyetunji, 2014). Researchers have explored similarities between academic and commercial knowledge work and the influence of work-group space (Leaman and Bordass, 2006;Ashkanasy et al., 2014;Khoshbakht, et al., 2021), layout (Haynes, 2008) and activity-based practices (Engelen et al., 2019) on mental health, wellbeing and productivity . However, it is clear that pre-pandemic operational models need to evolve. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The turmoil caused by COVID-19 saw academics and students in Higher Education (HE) institutions across the UK, and worldwide, facing the sudden and unplanned move to online or blended delivery. It left pre-pandemic operational models in need of evolving, leading to an opportunity to develop and test innovative architectural and spatial programming design strategies for ‘knowledge work’ spaces as academic staff and students returned to campus. The aim of this inter-disciplinary longitudinal study was to evaluate and validate a unique mixed- method approach, which combines extended reality, user experience (UX) and psychological research methodologies with architectural design strategies, to understand how people feel at work; how the environment influences their performance, health and wellbeing; and how to maximise spatial usage. Results were obtained by triangulating data collected from co-creation workshops, an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) survey, and a final usability virtual reality (VR) evaluation. Results imply that there is no ideal layout that would fulfil every user’s needs, instead new strategies need to be developed for workspaces to be redesigned creatively following longer-term usability and healthy architecture standards. This includes the mixed- method approach in this study that successfully creates a link between disciplines and user groups: UX and psychological researchers, architects, estates managers and end-users.
... In this regard, Boge et al. (2019) andde Kok et al. (2016) stress the need to plan office workspaces according to the users' work patterns. More importantly, work patterns and office design seem interrelated variables with a moderating effect on users' performance and well-being (Haynes, 2008;Soriano et al., 2018). Thus, designing for positive experiences with flexible offices requires choices of furniture (both configured from the beginning or introduced afterwards) to match the users' activities and way of work. ...
... Based on the results, we offered various potential ways to alleviate overcrowding issues in the WFH context. the perception, behavior, and productivity of workers-e.g., [12][13][14][15][16][17]. In particular, since conventional closed workplaces started to be replaced with open-plan design in the 1970s, many researchers have focused on the issues of spatial density, interpersonal distance, and the feeling of crowding in the workplace-e.g., [18][19][20]. ...
Full-text available
The sudden adoption of working from home (WFH) during the COVID-19 pandemic has required the reconfiguration of home spaces to fit space for remote work into existing spaces already filled with other domestic functions. This resulted in blurring of home and work boundaries, the potential lack of space for telecommuting from home, and telecommuters' feelings of crowding. Numerous studies have shown the negative effects of crowding feelings on workers' responses. This study focused on the issue of crowding in the residential workspace. An online survey was conducted to investigate how features of the home workspace correlate with telecommuters' feelings of crowding and how these feelings affect satisfaction, health, and productivity. As a result, we found that various environmental features of home workspaces (e.g., house size, purpose of workspace, accessible balcony, lighting, noise, etc.), as well as psychological aspects (e.g., individual control over space use), had significant effects on telecommuters' feelings of crowdedness. It was also found that feelings of crowding in the WFH environment can directly and indirectly affect teleworkers' satisfaction with work environments, well-being, and work performance. Based on the results, we offered various potential ways to alleviate overcrowding issues in the WFH context.
Full-text available
Esta pesquisa de natureza qualitativa investigou as percepções, desafios e trajetórias das estudantes-mães durante a realização de programas de pós-graduação stricto sensu em Ciências Contábeis no Brasil. A abordagem interpretativista e analítica foi empregada para compreender a experiência materna no contexto acadêmico contábil. A seleção das participantes ocorreu por meio da técnica de bola de neve. Dezesseis discentes-mães matriculadas em programas de mestrado ou doutorado em universidades brasileiras participaram do estudo. Os dados foram coletados através de questionário online e depoimentos escritos. A análise dos dados, por meio da Análise do Conteúdo, evidenciou que a maternidade pode impactar negativamente a progressão acadêmica das estudantes-mães, resultando em sobrecarga de responsabilidades diárias na conciliação entre cuidado com os filhos e exigências acadêmicas. Foi identificada a falta de políticas e diretrizes específicas para atender às necessidades das discentes-mães, destacando a necessidade de aprimoramento das políticas existentes para garantir oportunidades equitativas. As conclusões apontaram a importância de se criar um ambiente acadêmico inclusivo e sensível às demandas das estudantes-mães em programas de pós-graduação stricto sensu em Ciências Contábeis.
Purpose Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) of office buildings, accommodating large number of users, is significantly demanded, to ascertain the provision and upkeep of users' requirements. This paper presents the findings of a POE of an office building located in Saudi Arabia, as a case study. Design/methodology/approach A mixed approach of qualitative and quantitative research activities were conducted to achieve the objective of this study. Previous studies were analyzed to identify 28 performance indicators, grouped under seven technical and functional performance elements in office buildings. A walkthrough served to gain familiarity with the building, and identify the obvious performance defects. Interviews were conducted to solicit the users' perceptions about the performance elements, and initiate discussions based on the findings of the walkthrough. A user satisfaction survey was then deployed to quantify the user's feedback on the performance of the building. Findings Users of the case study office building were generally satisfied with all the technical performance elements, except visual comfort. They were also dissatisfied with two functional performance elements, namely office layout and building equipment. Practical implications Recommendations were developed to improve the performance of the case study building. The approach followed and the defined indicators can be of practical value to design professionals, administrators and facilities managers, responsible for the design and operation of office buildings. Originality/value Office buildings are valuable business capital for their corporate organizations. This study contributes to the facilities management literature, through providing a systematic approach for the quality and performance appraisal of the performance elements of office buildings.
Full-text available
The factors that can improve employee collaboration in their workplace are investigated differently. Studies from an architectural perspective confirm that the effects of office design on improving collaboration are limited to the type of office. However, these studies are contradictory because open-plan offices (OPO) and activity-based offices (ABO) encountered some shortcomings in advancing collaboration. This research has a broader perspective and analyzed the effect of the three categories of office design parameters on five types of interactive behavior among employees, including team structure, leadership, mutual support, situation monitoring, and communication to improve OPOs and ABOs. The participants were employees of open-plan and activity-based offices from Tehran city (Iran). Both kinds of offices received and completed an equal number of questionnaires. The data were analyzed using partial least square structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) and multi-group analysis (MGA) to investigate the hypotheses. In open-plan offices, interactive employee behavior was influenced by environmental and psychological factors. However, in activity-based offices, interactive employee behavior was affected only by functional factors. In general, collaboration could be improved by changing the physical parameters of office design.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is an immense concern for people’s wellness. The central argument in this research is that the IEQ in a university research room impacts users and their health, well-being and productivity. In addition, the present study relies on the Flourish Wheel to enhance the environment using the Biophilic Design approach, which in turn influences users’ satisfaction and work performance in five research rooms at Brunel University London. These rooms are situated in the same outdoor environment of a single university campus, but house multi-disciplinary occupants and vary in construction age, size, methods of ventilation and mode of thermostatic control. The current research paper firstly investigated the role of IEQ factors and sub-factors on occupants’ health, well-being, and productivity. Secondly, evaluated the possibility of improving the indoor workplace environment using Biophilic Design patterns. The most prominent finding is that the qualities of the five critical aspects of IEQ have significantly positive correlations with the occupants’ wellness. Another significant result is that the 14 Biophilic Design framework patterns can holistically offer different ways to improve the research rooms based on various environmental issues. The findings proposed in this study could be valuable both for design practitioners and academic researchers.
Technical Report
Full-text available
If occupiers are to be able to make correct decisions on property, they, or their advisors, need to understand how it contributes, not only to costs but also more importantly to the knowledge and service processes of the organisation. The question is less 'How does property benefit occupiers?' and more 'How do occupiers secure maximum benefit from property?'. The literature, despite some claims and examples, does not answer either question. The results of this first study are presented on this site in three levels. The raw data is in the literature database where there is an evaluative summary of individual contributions. The full report that follows draws those contributions into a cohesive thread, acknowledging relevant source material in the standard academic fashion. This overview, without attributions, sums up the main messages for the real estate professional. Some disclaimers are necessary. The review is restricted to material in the public domain, i.e. sources published as books, journal articles or websites, and has not sought material published in languages other than English. Whilst the authors cannot be certain that every available reference has been accessed, they are confident that the ca. 300 references included in the first version of the database cover the main commentary in the field. We welcome, and will include in updates of the database, other material that readers choose to bring to our attention. Judged by the criterion of the number of new titles published, interest in the workplace as a management tool for 'post-Fordist' organisations is reaching fad status. However, with a few notable exceptions, most of this interest could be considered as pushed by practitioners, advisers or professionals rather than pulled by line managers or even business and organisational theorists. One sign of the explosion is the plethora of new terminology, as property or real-estate specialists, facilities managers and workplace designers all lay claims to a, or often the, strategic role; claims whose evidence is frequently lacking.
Full-text available
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to provide a validated theoretical framework for the measurement of office productivity. Design/methodology/approach – The study's strength is that it is based on two sizable data sets. The data collected consists of data about the physical characteristics of the office environment and data pertaining to the behavioural environment. Findings – One of the key contributions of this study was the development of the components of office productivity, which were: comfort, office layout, informal interaction points, environmental services, designated areas, interaction and distraction. The components were reduced to four in preparation for subsequent analysis. The four distinct components were comfort, office layout, interaction and distraction. Originality/value – This study establishes that it is the behavioural environment that has the greatest impact on office productivity. It demonstrates that it is the dynamic elements of the office environment, interaction and distraction that are perceived as having the greatest positive and negative influences on self assessed productivity.
Full-text available
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to evaluate approaches to office productivity improvements. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents two contrasting approaches to office productivity improvements. The review aims to establish that cost is not the only consideration when considering office productivity. The human dimension is included in the debate along with creating a business case and the occupier perspective. Past and current thinking are explored. Findings – The review of the literature reveals that relatively small increases in employee productivity can greatly outweigh significant reductions in real estate costs. This “leveraging” approach highlights the need for greater emphasis on the occupier perspective if significant office productivity improvements are to be made. Originality/value – Whilst it is appropriate to ensure that real estate costs are monitored and controlled, this should not be undertaken if it restricts employees' ability to perform their job as productively as possible.
Full-text available
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to evaluate the impact that office comfort has on office occupiers' productivity. Design/methodology/approach – The author evaluates the literature that claims to make a linkage between the physical comfort of the office environment and the effect on the productivity of the office occupiers. Office comfort will initially be discussed as a generic concept and subsequently be broken down into sub‐components. Findings – The review of the literature reveals that the evaluation of office comfort is a complex one. There appears to be no universally accepted definition of office comfort, and there is a clear lack of agreement as to how office comfort should be measured. This paper establishes that, there is enough evidence to support the claim that office comfort can affect productivity. Originality/value – This paper adds to the debate by identifying the need for a common and universally accepted measurement of office comfort. It is proposed that this can largely be achieved by evaluating office comfort with a multi‐item scale, and adopting an office occupier perspective to any future research.
Full-text available
In the early 1990s, a few organisations in the Netherlands began to experiment with flexible workplaces. Traditional cellular offices and the open-plan offices or team-oriented bullpen spaces in which everyone had their own fixed workplace were no longer a matter of course. Making use of modern information and communication technology, the pioneers redirected their attention towards the sharing of activity related workplaces in a combi-office. Economic considerations (eg low occupancy of expensive workplaces), organisational developments (network organisations, teamwork, fast exchange of knowledge, part-time work) and external developments (globalisation, strong competition) are important drivers for change. The aim is to stimulate new ways of working (dynamic, less closely linked to place and time), to improve labour productivity and to make major cost savings (fewer workplaces, fewer square metres), without reducing employee satisfaction. Since then a number of new offices have been realised. Twelve per cent of organisations that have moved recently use flexible workspaces for the most part or exclusively. An important question now is whether the aims have been achieved. What are the actual benefits? What are the risks? How should consultants advise their clients? The field is dominated by the opinions of those in favour and those against. Statements expressing the successes or failures of flexible offices contradict each other. Hard data are almost lacking. Due to the scarcity of empirically supported insights, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands together with the Centre for People and Buildings and the Centre for Facility Management are carrying out investigations into the costs and benefits of workplace innovation. This paper reports on progress so far, with a focus on employee satisfaction and labour productivity.
Research in open office design has shown that it is negatively related to workers’ satisfaction with their physical environment and perceived productivity. A longitudinal study was conducted within a large private organization to investigatethe effects of relocating employees from traditional offices to open offices. A measure was constructed that assessed employees’satisfaction with the physical environment, physical stress, coworker relations, perceived job performance, and the use of open office protocols. The sample consisted of 21 employees who completed the surveys at all three measurement intervals: prior to the move, 4 weeks after the move, and 6 months after the move. Results indicated decreased employee satisfaction with all of the dependent measures following the relocation. Moreover, the employees’dissatisfaction did not abate, even after an adjustment period. Reasons for these findings are discussed and recommendations are presented.
Companies large and small, in every industry, face a common challenge: do more, better, with less. The organisational problems to be solved, while meeting this kind of corporate mandate, are also widely shared: attract and retain high quality employees; strengthen brand identity; increase flexibility in the face of highly uncertain market conditions and new technologies; assimilate mergers and acquisitions; accommodate frequent changes in group and team size and structure. This paper describes findings from research that examined the workplace strategies of independent small startup initiatives, as well as those initiated inside large corporations. The findings suggest that it is possible to identify aspects of overall workplace planning and design that reduce costs and increase flexibility while maintaining or enhancing organisational effectiveness.
Early in this century, extensive research was carried out regarding the worker in the industrial setting with the physical environment as the focus. In the 1930s, the focus became the social environment. Several developments have recently brought the physical environment into prominence and, in particular, the office as a work setting. The US economy has shifted from production to the provision of information and services, with 80 per cent of the workforce predicted to be in the office work setting by the year 2000, compared with 53 per cent today. The work environment is also changing due to advances in technology. This research is in its infancy; and the relationship of the work setting and behaviour, and how it affects productivity, is said to be complex.The existing data suggest that non-supportive design has negative effects on work and workers, and design appropriate to the work has positive ones. In fact, many businesses have begun changing their design and organizational cultures with positive results. Only time and more observation can reveal what will result from these changes.
Group members’ attitudes toward social processes and media properties are likely to change as members interact and gain experience with each other and technology in computer-supported environments. Moreover, these attitudes are likely to evolve differently. This study examines computer-supported groups of four over a series of four sessions working on a collaborative writing task. Results from this study indicate that group-related attitudes, i.e. social perceptions, tend to change sooner, and to a greater extent, than media-related ones. A possible explanation for these differences is that computer media have certain physical properties that cannot be easily altered by users. In contrast, group-related structures appear to be much more malleable. These results imply that, for example, groups can, with the right assistance, develop positive group attitudes rather quickly which tend to last over time. In contrast, attitudes towards technical systems tend to evolve more slowly and, when system designs are flawed or users are not well trained on system features, managers may be faced with persistent negative user attitudes. Thus, understanding how social and technical attitudes evolve is critical for managers who want to improve group processes.