The impact of ofﬁce layout
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) 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
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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
Summary of Gensler
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
(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. 21–24). 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
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)
Type of ofﬁce and
distraction by other
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
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 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
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)
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.
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.
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
More time required to look up and store
Source: Van der Voordt (2004)
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
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
Becker, F. (1990), The Total Workplace: Facilities Management and the Elastic Organization,
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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 email@example.com
Impact of ofﬁce
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