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Disproving widespread myths about workplace design

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Abstract and Figures

Overview of primary predictors of employee performance and job satisfaction, based on BOSTI Associates data base from 1994-2000. Focuses on the implications of those factors for workplace design; not a statistically oriented booklet. (That information may be obtained from Sue Weidemann.)
Content may be subject to copyright.
DISPROVING WIDESPREAD MYTHS ABOUT WORKPLACE DESIGN
© 2001 by BOSTI Associates
1479 Hertel Ave.
Buffalo, NY 14216
716-837-7120
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the prior permission in writing of
the copyright holder.
AUTHORED BY: Mike Brill and Dr. Sue Weidemann with Dr. Lisa Allard, John Olson,
and Ellen Bruce Keable, all of BOSTI Associates. This has been a total team effort.
BOOK DESIGN: Jane McWhorter of Blue Sky Productions, Great Barrington, MA
ILLUSTRATIONS: Su-Hyun Yi, Adam Brill, Katherine Meacham, Mike Tatum, Jeff Innes
PRODUCTION: Katherine Meacham and Donna Cameron
ECONOMIC ANALYSES: Judith Fabiniak
Published by Kimball International Form No. MIBOBK-02
Kimball Office Furniture
1600 Royal Street
Jasper, IN 47549
First Printing, February, 2001
Second Printing, February, 2002 • Printed in the United States of America
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
None of this work could have been done without our many intelligent, curi-
ous, and dedicated clients, whose organizations we were asked to analyze in their
quest for high-performance, cost-effective workplaces. For about half of these
clients, we’ve done multiple projects, often in different business units. We thank
them for their trust and wisdom.
Amdahl • Andersen Consulting • Canadian Tourism Commission
Digital Equipment Corporation • Ericsson • Ernst & Young • Deloitte & Touche
Fidelity Investments • Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company
Frank Russell Company • IBM• Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems
Microsoft Corporation • MITRE Corporation
Public Works & Government Services, Canada • Revenue Canada
Sun Microsystems • Tandem Computers
U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development • U.S. General Accounting Office
U.S. General Services Administration/ Public Buildings Service
Workers’ Compensation Board of Ontario, Canada • Xerox Corporation
Special thanks to Frank Lytle and Kent Reyling of Kimball International for
their wisdom in helping shape this project.
Special recognition also goes to Charles Roy of CCR Associates, Essex, CT for
his review of acoustic issues.
INTRODUCTION
This publication is published and distributed by Kimball as a service
to business executives, facilities managers, human resource staff,
designers, suppliers and other stakeholders involved in the realization of
high performance workplaces.
Kimball believes strongly in these research findings, even though they
question the conventional wisdom and popular industry trends. It is
empirical quantitative research on a significant base of users, using rigor-
ous objective measurements. It has substance.
Kimball also feels it is important to share this new information and its
design implications. These research findings have great capacity to have
dramatic and positive effects on critical organizational outcomes of
increased performance, more satisfied employees, more productive teams,
and steeper learning curves by providing employees with high-perform-
ance workplaces.
We hope you benefit from and enjoy the reading.
5
BOSTI’S HISTORY OF OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY RESEARCHI
In 1985 BOSTI published a two volume work, “Using Office Design to
Increase Productivity,” the results of a seven year research program,
involving some 10,000 people in about 80 business units. A major con-
tribution of that work was to establish a clear relationship between
workplace design and people’s productivity and job satisfaction.
Much has changed since the first book, and BOSTI is engaged in a
second wave of research to understand the impacts of those changes.
Over the past 15 years some long-term, stable business trends have
emerged, strongly affecting how organizations operate, how people
work, and how workplaces are being rethought. These trends, seen in
most organizations, are particularly pronounced in progressive organ-
izations, and are of four types:
• Organizational structure and strategies
• Workforce attitudes and expectations
• Technology — its ever increasing power and widespread deployment
• New recognitions about, and strategies for, the workplace
The key areas of change within them are:
LONG-TERM, STABLE BUSINESS TRENDSI
Trends in organizational structure and strategies are:
Business transformation, leading to organizational change and
the conscious development of new employee attitudes and
perspectives to support this transformation.
Increased focus on customer needs and expanded definitions of
who the customer is (internal as well as external to the
organization).
Deconstruction into smaller, more nimble, less hierarchical,
more customer-responsive business units, often autonomous in
their decision-making and in their profit and loss reporting.
Partnering with customers and other vendors to craft integrated
customer-specific solutions.
Continually seeking improvements . . . everybody is responsible
for innovating, at all levels and in all business units.
More work done in cross-functional teams to reduce cycle time
and time to market, substituting simultaneity for sequentiality in
decision-making.
More resource-lean organizations, with a strong focus on cost
containment, and re-examination of the costs and benefits of all
resources used.
More geographically-dispersed locations (closer to customers)
with this dispersed workforce connected through technology . . .
or, consolidation of offices, using home-based work to serve field
locations.
More solution seeking and less “pushing existing product,”
leading to more consulting and service offerings.
Trends in workforce attitudes and expectations are:
Increased recognition of the asset value of employees as
“intellectual capital.”
Team contributions more noticed and rewarded.
High learning needs driven by more cross-functional teaming
(and the need to know the basics of other people’s disciplines)
and more demand to innovate by customers . . . lifelong
learning has become a core value for many companies.
More individual and group autonomy in decision making,
supported by just-in-time data delivery and communications.
Many employees out of the office more, crafting customer
solutions onsite and partnering with them, with a portion of the
workforce becoming “periodic office residents.”
Much change (too much for some), causing high stress and anxiety.
Globalization of work affecting people’s perceptions of, and use
of, time and distance.
Trends in technology and its ever increasing power and
global deployment are:
Global deployment of technology, its networks and the Web,
enabling more remote work, telework, and mobile work.
Now the primary analytic and communications tools for most
employees.
Continuous increases in capacity of techno-tools, decreasing in
size, and increasingly wireless.
Integration of voice, data, and images.
An enabler of best work done anywhere, anytime (work-life and
life-life blur) . . . supports high mobility or “never leave the cottage.”
Very rapid pace of work expected, more people feeling loss of
control of the pace of work, needing more “breaks.”
6
7
New recognitions about, and strategies for the
workplace are:
Current workplaces are often a poor fit for the new work.
Workplace design really affects individual and team productivity,
job satisfaction, quality of worklife, and learning.
Workplace is a tool, not a status-driven entitlement.
Office work can be and should be deployed over larger business
geographies, continuing the erosion of many downtowns.
People can use an array of work locations (like satellite offices)
and others which are not “owned” or leased, like employees’
homes, airline clubs, and hotels.
A workplace designed as a good fit for the work needs a different
approach to workplace design, and new ways to manage and use
space.
“New Officing” as a creative response to these trends
In many companies, a creative response to this set of long-term and
continuing trends has been the development of a set of strategies called
Alternative Officing, or (we prefer) New Officing. New Officing’s goal is
to use workplaces, technologies, and work processes as an integrated
system of enablers . . . to work smarter . . . and wherever work happens.
NEW OFFICING HAS ONLY THREE BASIC STRATEGIES: Radical Re-Design;
Work-From-Anywhere; Hotelling. They can be used singly or intermixed.
1. Radical Re-Design
. . . is both a process and a result and neither is
business-as-usual. Its premise is that, given the trend-driven changes
in work, traditional workplace design and use concepts have dimin-
ishing value, and, a more radical approach to workplace design and its
management would yield real benefit.
Radical Re-design is the result of a research driven and highly
purposive design process. Its goals are to support:
Organizational transformation
Changing work processes and practices
Increased emphases on effective groupwork
Continuous learning
Increasing the performance and satisfaction of individuals
8
It often involves a dis-
carding of old workplace
standards and develop-
ment of new ones based on
rigorous analysis of the
business and the work.
Through this, it develops
new models for workplaces that purposively affect productivity and satis-
faction, and optimize work’s locations day-to-day. This new process results
in new physical solutions, and often new standards.
Workshop Meeting Room
Main Street
Airline Club
9
2. Work-From-Anywhere
. . . where the office is not
the major site for work.
This includes:
Work-from or at-home
Work at clients’ sites
Satellite work sites
Virtual work in hotels,
airports, on vacation,
even in hospital beds
The Work-From-Anywhere
strategy can reduce space sub-
stantially (if efforts are made to capture it).
3. Hotelling
. . . where the office is still the base for work, but much of
it happens elsewhere. Essentially, this strategy runs the office like a
“hotel,” where people who are now out of the workplace a lot (gener-
ally, 60% or more) share a set of reservable but non-dedicated spaces.
Hotelling reduces space needs, depending on the ratios calculated for
the number of workspaces needed for the number of people in the office
on any given day . . . it is a form of “just-in-time” workspace delivery.
Workspaces for hotellers are the same size and quality as those for per-
manent residents . . . they’re not “second class” workspaces, or merely
touch-down spaces for short periods of time. Since no hoteller “owns” a
workspace, their materials are stored elsewhere and brought in as needed.
ALL ASSIGNED WORKSPACES HOTELLING
10
BOSTI’S RESEARCH PROGRAM:
BOSTI has implemented these New Officing strategies in many com-
panies in several major industries, and more importantly, has studied
their effects. Now, 15 years after documenting its first comprehensive
set of findings, BOSTI is poised to publish another book based on a six
year study (1994-2000) of some 13,000 people in some 40 business units.
This booklet you’re reading, whose publication is supported by Kimball
International, is an early release of an important portion of the findings.
There is much more to come.
BOSTI’s approach in all its consulting assignments is a rigorous
research process that begins with analysis of the business, and not the
facility. This enables us to focus on the very wide range of business issues
the workplace could affect. Basically, our analysis involves a four-step
process that:
1. Articulates business objectives . . .
2. From which business success factors are derived.
3. Describes the key employee behaviors needed to achieve the
business success factors.
4. Describes the workplace qualities required to support those
behaviors effectively and efficiently.
This process diagrammed above is one which selects workplace quali-
ties that will positively affect business objectives. Diagrammed
below is how workplaces actually get used. It is, essentially, the
reverse of its design process, where specific workplace qualities affect
key employee behaviors, which affect achievement of success fac-
tors, which in turn affect attainment of business objectives.
If the workplace is designed using this business-based analysis
and design process, it becomes a tool in service of achieving business
objectives.
WORKPLACE
DESIGN
QUALITIES
KEY
BEHAVIORS
SUCCESS
FACTORS
BUSINESS
OBJECTIVES
BUSINESS-BASED ANALYSIS & DESIGN PROCESS
11
This research was done as part of BOSTI Associates’ many business-
based New Officing consulting projects between 1994 and 2000. [See
BOSTI’s web site at www.bosti.com for a listing of our clients.] These
companies, with a wide variety of cultures, sought new workplace con-
cepts and designs that would be a strategic response to the set of business
trends previously described. In 1999, we began analysis across all our
client-specific research-based consulting projects to see if there were
many common patterns and findings, and indeed there are. The results
are startlingly common across companies and industries, and are very
robust. Some call into question a few of our most cherished assumptions
about how people work and how design of the workplace affects those
people and their work.
What this Research Is and Isn’t
This work is very different and far more rigorous and systematic than
that done by the design and vendor communities. It is not the result of
an opinion poll of managers, designers, or experts. The results are:
Not from interviews with designers about what they think matters in
the workplace.
Not from interviews with managers about what they think matters in
the workplace.
Not from interviews with vendors about what’s popular in the marketplace.
Not from a review of the literature, piecing together an argument
from multiple sources.
. . . and NOT from BOSTI’s opinions either.
The results are the product of direct research on 13,000 workplace
users, using rigorous objective measurements. They are the findings
from structured questionnaires, responded to by these office workers
in multiple industries and 40 business units. It is empirical quantitative
WORKPLACE
DESIGN
QUALITIES
KEY
BEHAVIORS
SUCCESS
FACTORS
BUSINESS
OBJECTIVES
HOW WORKPLACE QUALITIES AFFECT THE BUSINESS
12
research using data gathered directly from employees and managers
about their tasks and work experiences. We report research findings
across many consulting projects, using consistent data gathering meth-
ods which allow results to be combined and compared.
About BOSTI’s Questionnaire
In these questionnaires, we don’t ask people what they think affects
their productivity or job satisfaction. Rather, we measure the effects of the
workplace on their work and other important outcomes. Statistical
analyses of their responses to questions about their work environment
and activities are analyzed against responses to self-measures of individual
and team performance, job satisfaction, learning, communication, etc.
[For a discussion of the benefits and limitations of this method, see
Appendix A.]
BOSTI’s questionnaire asks people for descriptive information about
their individual and group work tasks and work settings, where they
occur, the time spent by task and their importance. It also asks people
about their own workspace size, its degree of enclosure, the amount of
storage and equipment they have and how they use it, and the frequen-
cy, size, and duration of their meetings and interactions (both scheduled
and impromptu). The questionnaire asks for evaluative information of
how effectively the various work settings (and particular qualities of them)
support their work, as well as ratings of job performance, team perform-
ance, and job satisfaction, and information about how they learn.
While the questionnaire demands careful thought and takes over 30
minutes to complete, there are high response rates in all projects . . . on
average, about 40% of those surveyed responded. People were informed
that their responses to the questionnaire will remain confidential and
anonymous, so they had no compunction about sharing their candid
evaluations with us. As well, respondents took it seriously, given that
new and/or improved workplaces were to be the result of the research.
These research findings offer a basis for fundamentally rethinking the
workplace so that it is designed more as a tool for work, and not as just a
place to house the tools of work, or as primarily a “design statement.”
Reporting Findings:
This booklet reports findings by job category
and by workspace type, but not by company (for anonymity) nor by indus-
try, since the findings are very similar across industries. In all cases, data
presented here are for the entire database, across all the companies.
13
In reporting by JOB TYPE, we have collapsed the hundreds of job
titles we found into four basic categories, based on the tasks people
engage in and for how much of their workday. Job titles comprising these
four “functional job types” are ones in which the work behaviors are so
similar the titles can be considered as a set for analysis. They are:
Managers
Professionals
Engineers & Technical
Administrative
[For a discussion of the development of the four functional job types,
some of the typical job categories in each, and their relative proportions
in the database, see Appendix B: About Job Types In The Database.]
In reporting by WORKSPACE TYPE, we use those most frequently
identified:
Private workspaces occupied alone
Private workspaces with two occupants
Open workspaces
In reporting on SURVEY RESULTS, we report only the percent of peo-
ple who are positive or negative in their responses, and don’t report the
percent who are “neutral” about the issue (if you’re interested, the per-
cent neutral is 100% minus the % positive and % negative.) There were no
findings in which most people were neutral.
14
ECONOMIC ANALYSES OF THE COSTS OF DOING WORKI
We are presenting research establishing that the physical workplace
has substantial effects on job performance and job satisfaction. Since any
actions that might be taken as a result of this research should be subject-
ed to a cost-benefit analysis, it is important to understand the cost of the
operating workplace and technology relative to the cost of employees.
These are the primary costs of doing office-based white collar work. The
benefits (or detriments) come from design interventions that increase (or
decrease) performance and satisfaction.
What does the workplace cost?
The primary purpose of a workplace
is to support an organization’s mission and it incurs costs in achieving this.
In the past much attention was paid to the costs of the office environ-
ment and not much to the benefits of its use. In 1968, BOSTI Associates
projected out over 10 years many of the then current costs, comparing
the cost of people to the cost of the operating workplace. This 1968 to
1978 analysis revealed that for an office built new, furnished new, and
operated for 10 years, over that ten year period, 92% of all money spent
to achieve the organization’s office-based mission went for people’s
salaries, 2% to maintain and operate the building, and only 6% were the
costs of building it new, and buying furnishings and business equipment.
Similar ratios resulted from calculations done again in our 1981 to
1991 10-year calculations. At this point, the relative costs of technology
began to increase, and in our year current 1998-2008 calculation, tech-
nology costs now surpass facility costs.
In all these calculations, the total cost of the workplace includes building
it new and buying its furniture. The technology costs include supplying
electronic equipment, software, infrastructure, and training. The
operations cost relates to providing energy and maintenance for day-to-
operations.
The relative costs of the primary elements of doing work, over 10
years, are graphically displayed on the facing page.
[See Appendix C for the details of this analysis.]
15
82% 10%
3%
5%
16
Implications of these Economics of the Workplace
In the late 1960’s, upon discovering how little the workplace costs when
compared to the costs of the people who work in it, the next important
research question was to find out whether the planning and design of the
workplace affected the productivity and job satisfaction of the people
working in it.
BOSTI Associates’ 30 subsequent years of research and consulting (and
research done by others) demonstrate that the workplace measurably
affects job performance, job satisfaction and ease and quality of interac-
tion, which are important bottom-line measures for all organizations.
The research suggests that the dollar value of the benefits of appropri-
ately designed offices are substantial, as are the costs of poorly designed
ones. And, there is symmetry . . . non-supportive design has negative
effects (costs) on work and workers, and design appropriate to the work
has positive effects (benefits).
17
DEFINITIONS USEFUL IN READING THIS WORKI
For clarity, these are the important definitions we’ve used:
WORKPLACE
: A general term for the entire physical environment for
work . . . the whole floor, whole building, whole campus. The work-
place always contains large numbers of workspaces.
WORKSPACE
: The space where an employee sits (mostly) when in
the office. Generally there’s one person to a workspace, and some-
times, two. Many workspaces are assigned to an individual, but in an
increasingly used workplace strategy (hotelling), we see pools of shared
workspaces that a group of individuals use on an as-needed basis, but
not dedicated to any individual. While individual-use workspaces vary
widely in size, there are two primary conditions of acoustic privacy
. . . private (enclosed) offices and open offices.
PRIVATE OFFICE: A workspace that has four walls to the ceiling
and a door.
OPEN OFFICE: A workspace whose perimeter boundaries do not
go to the ceiling. Most often constructed of relocatable panels and
panel-hung worksurfaces and storage, or of relocatable panels with
free-standing furniture or of non-relocatable, drywall boundaries
(not to the ceiling) and free-standing furniture.
SYSTEMS FURNITURE: Open-office and system furniture are
not interchangeable terms. Systems furniture is furniture and
panel units whose dimensions, geometries, and connections are
pre-engineered for compatibility. This enables it to be relocated and
reconfigured in many ways, easily, and without the necessity of
using expensive tradespeople. Worksurfaces and storage units are
often hung from modular panels, creating both enclosure and fur-
nishings in one unit. Systems’ worksurfaces and storage units can
also be hung on some types of walls-to-the-ceiling.
18
THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
CONTRIBUTION OF THE WORKPLACE TO THE BUSINESSI
Since previous research and this most current research shows that
workplace design and its use affect important work outcomes, an impor-
tant question is “how much?” This question arises because of the limits
that companies have on resources available to invest in all their desired
initiatives for improvement. Such limits make these investments
directly competitive with each other, requiring decisions that prioritize
them. To help do this, companies need to be able to measure the effect
that each initiative has (or might have) on success in comparison with
the effects of the others. From our facilities perspective, we must meas-
ure the total effect the workplace has in order to appropriately place
it in competition for resources.
The difference in investment between “doing it right” and “doing it
wrong” in workplace design does not necessarily involve spending more
on first costs (although it might). But, doing it right affects the contin-
uing performance and retention of employees, the largest cost factor
for any company in achieving their office-based mission.
There are numerous factors that contribute to job performance and job
satisfaction (e.g.: technology; skill-to-task matching; pay incentives; direc-
tion by managers; advancement opportunities; challenging work; good
colleagues; work/life balance; and others). In our projects we quantify only
those effects that are directly attributable to design of the workplace. This
is a useful strategy since the critical issue, for us, is how much the
design of the workplace alone affects important business outcomes.
Looking across all the sites in our database, the average effects of the
workplace are:
Job Satisfaction
Effects of:
Average
EFFECTS
of
WORKPLACE
Individual Performance
Team Performance
11%
89%
95%
5%
24%
76%
• Technology
• Pay/Incentives
• Advancement Opportunity
• Skill-to-Task Matching
• Direction by Managers
• Work/Life Balance
•. . . Other Factors
19
An observation: Consistently, the workplaces’ strongest effects are
on job satisfaction (and through this, the ability to recruit and retain
high performers), the next strongest effects are on team performance,
and least (but still quite significant) on individual performance. In a
business climate where it is increasingly important to get and keep the
best talent and have them engage in more productive teamwork and
solo work, the design of the workplace plays a much stronger role
than we believed.
WORKPLACE QUALITIES WITH THE STRONGEST EFFECTSI
Across all the business units and all job types, the workplace qualities
we have examined that have the strongest effects on individual and team
performance and job satisfaction are shown below and in a general rank
order, with the most powerful qualities first. Note that all qualities on this
list should be considered priorities. There are other workplace qualities
that are not on this list because their effects are less strong.
These workplace qualities rank much the same across individual and
team performance and job satisfaction. The implication is that providing
good levels of these qualities affects all of these important measures.
WORKPLACE QUALITIES WITH THE STRONGEST EFFECTS / RANKED
Ability to do distraction-free solo work
Support for impromptu interactions (both in one’s workspace and elsewhere)
Support for meetings and undistracted groupwork
Workspace comfort, ergonomics and enough space for work tools
Workspace supports side-by-side work and “dropping in to chat”
Located near or can easily find coworkers
Workplace has good places for breaks
Access to needed technology
Quality lighting and access to daylight
Temperature control and air quality
20
The two workplace qualities with the strongest effects on per-
formance and satisfaction are those supporting distraction-free
work and supporting interactions with co-workers (especially
impromptu ones). Both of these top workplace design priorities
must exist without compromising the other.
Given the magnitude of the effects workplace design has, and that
many of the top ten predictors of these effects can, in most workplaces, be
substantially improved, we estimate that these improvements would,
very conservatively, yield at least 3% improvement in individual per-
formance and team performance, taken together. This does not include
effects of workplace improvements on job satisfaction, whose effects
would be felt in improved recruitment and retention.
The focus of this booklet is on demonstrating how these two
top predictors of performance and satisfaction affect each
other and what the critical design and facility management
implications of these effects are.
To better understand how these two top predictors of benefits affect
each other, we start with some basic facts: a description of what tasks
people actually do when in the office, for how long, and where they
perform these. It is interesting to note, that over the past six years
(1994–2000), the percent of time people spend at their various work tasks
has not changed much.
HOW people spend their time at work
In all these analyses, we used 8 task categories to understand where
and how people spend their time:
• Computer and quiet work
• Telephone work In one’s workspace
• Meetings, interactions in one’s own workspace
• Scheduled meetings outside one’s workspace
• Informal interactions outside one’s workspace
Taking breaks Outside one’s workspace
• Doing office chores/lab work
• Other
The following “time pies” show time-at-task (as averages) for all
the people in the 4 functional job types in our database: Managers,
Professionals, Engineers, and Administrative. The amounts of time people
spend at their various work tasks is remarkably consistent: across 3 of the
4 functional job types (only managers are really different); across indus-
tries; in both New Economy and “old” economy businesses; and across
both public and private sectors.
21
22
Break 3%
In Meeting
Rooms 11%
Informal
Interactions 5%
Meet in
Workspace 15%
Phone 15%
Computer,
Quiet Work 48%
Other 4%
MANAGERS
Break 3%
In Meeting
Rooms 6%
Informal
Interactions 3%
Meet in
Workspace
10%
Phone 6%
Computer,
Quiet Work 64%
Chores,
Lab work 9%
ENGINEERS & TECHNICAL
23
Break 3%
In Meeting
Rooms 6%
Informal
Interactions 4%
Meet in
Workspace 9%
Phone 11%
Computer,
Quiet Work 62%
Chores,
Lab Work 6%
PROFESSIONALS
Break 3%
In Meeting
Rooms 3%
Informal
Interactions 3%
Meet in
Workspace 6%
Phone 19%
Computer,
Quiet Work 61%
Chores 6%
ADMINISTRATIVE
WHERE people spend their time at work
Examining the locations of tasks, we see that at least 3/4 of people’s
time in the workplace is spent in their own workspace (Figure 1). Thus,
one’s own workspace is still the primary spatial tool for work, even in
highly interactive, team-based organizations.
Well more than half of all time spent in the workplace is spent in
focused, quiet work in one’s own workspace (Figure 2). Managers
spend the least time doing quiet work, but it’s still half of all their time
in the workplace.
Percent of Time in One’s Own Workspace (Figure 1)
Percent of Time Doing Focused, Quiet Work (Figure 2)
MANAGERS PROFESSIONALS
ENGINEERS & TECHNICAL ADMINISTRATIVE
48%
62%
64% 61%
MANAGERS PROFESSIONALS
ENGINEERS & TECHNICAL ADMINISTRATIVE
78%
82%
80% 86%
24
Between 1/5 to 1/3 of all time “in” is spent in interactions that produce
verbal noise (phone conversations, meetings, chatting) in or near indi-
viduals’ workspaces (Figure 3). This does not include discussions in
meeting rooms, or on breaks. Managers and Administrative staff spend
the most time (about 1/3 of the day) producing noise in/near their
workspace.
Percent of Time in Noise Producing Activities
in or Near Individual Workspaces (Figure 3)
What we see, then, is people engaged in two major sets of activi-
ties in the office: quiet work and verbal, noise-producing interaction
. . . with both sets of activities occurring in or near their own work-
space. (Analysis shows that these patterns hold true for people who
“hotel” and those who don’t.) And, it is these two sets of activities that
have the strongest effects on performance and satisfaction.
The importance of distraction-free work
Doing quiet work . . . reading and/or editing paper and electronic
texts; doing and reviewing calculations; composing and writing text;
searching for information; giving order to ideas; analyzing problems;
and just plain thinking is the mode of work that all categories of office
workers engage in for the most time each day . . . even though many report
being interrupted often. Notable exceptions are people in call centers,
those assigned to laboratories, and technical systems support staff,
whose daily task patterns are quite different.
This finding holds as true for organizations that are heavily teamwork
MANAGERS PROFESSIONALS
ENGINEERS & TECHNICAL ADMINISTRATIVE
35% 24%
19% 28%
25
driven as those heavily dependent upon the work of individual contrib-
utors, and is consistent across industries. The amount of time spent in
quiet work is shown below, both as a percentage of all time spent anywhere
in the workplace, and as a percentage of time spent in one’s own work-
space. For all job types, it is at least 1/2 the time spent in the whole
workplace, and about 2/3 of the time spent in one’s own workspace.
The ability to do distraction-free work:
Given how important
the ability to do distraction-free work is to the success of individuals and
teams, how well is this quiet work supported in the workplace?
The survey probed peoples’ ability to do distraction-free work in their
own workspace. The findings reported below clearly show that the more
open the workspace, the more distracted people are by others’ conversa-
tions, with 2/3 of all people in the open being “often distracted.”
OFTEN DISTRACTED BY OTHERS' CONVERSATIONS, by workspace type
(+) RELATIVELY UNDISTRACTED (-) OFTEN DISTRACTED
48% 29%
30% 52%
19%
100% 50% 0% -50% -100%
65%
PRIVATE OFFICE, SHARED
OPEN OFFICE
PRIVATE OFFICE, ALONE
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Engineers &
Technical
Professionals
Managers
Administrative
48%
62%
64%
80%
62%
76%
61%
71%
% of all time spent IN THE WHOLE WORKPLACE
% of all time spent IN ONE'S OWN WORKSPACE
TIME SPENT DOING QUIET WORK . . . as a percent of time in the whole workplace,
and in one's own workspace, by job type
26
27
The importance of interactions (especially impromptu ones)
Noise-producing verbal interactions with others . . . on telephones
and speakerphones; in video conferences; meeting face-to-face, one-on-
one or in larger groups; and just chatting . . . is the mode of work that all
categories of office workers engage in for the second largest amount of
time each day. While occupying less time than quiet work, it is critical to
business-success. This holds true for all types of jobs (managers spend
more time interacting than all others), in all companies surveyed, even
across industries. The amount of time spent in verbal interaction is
shown in the following chart.
All people (on average) spend about 1/4 of their time talking in and
near their own workspace, far more time than spent talking elsewhere
in the workplace. Thus, PEOPLE’S OWN WORKSPACES ARE THE SITE
OF MOST NOISE PRODUCTION.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Engineers &
Technical
Professionals
Managers
Administrative
Time talking in and near one's own workspace
Total time talking in the whole workplace
TIME SPENT TALKING IN AND NEAR ONE'S OWN WORKSPACE . . . and total time
talking in the whole workplace
35%
46%
19%
25%
24%
30%
28%
31%
How this talking affects others “in the open”:
Since people, on
average, spend about 25% of their time in and near their workspace
making noise, and if the typical workspace in an open office “grid” has
8 people directly adjacent (see diagram) then it’s very likely that at least
one of those 8 is making noise at any given time. So, it’s very likely that
there will be relatively few periods of quiet in the course of a typical
workday for any occupant of a densely-packed open plan workplace.
Accoustic Pathways
Must these noise-producing interactions happen in or near
one’s workspace?
Yes: The noise making activities of telephone use and meetings most
often need to be in one’s workspace. It is not practical to “go somewhere
else” to have either spur-of-the-moment or scheduled conversations,
particularly with increased use of in-meeting electronic data and docu-
ment reviews, and the pace at which decisions need to be made. There is
often a need to look at a screen side-by-side during some meetings, and
to use on-screen information during phone calls, tying people to their
workspaces’ screens. As well, the increases in pace and pressure now com-
monly lead to more “heated discussion” phone calls and the need to pull
people together quickly into conference calls, in-workspace meetings, or
impromptu hallway discussions . . . all in response to time pressure and
just-in-time handling of matters.
28
29
The importance of informal interactions for learning:
Verbal
interactions are important not just for transactions, but are the way most
people learn the most about their discipline, their projects, and their organ-
ization. For many organizations, continuous life-long learning is now
being formally articulated as a “core value.” This learning is obviously
necessary in a rapidly changing business climate; where new customer
needs and problems constantly arise; where in each discipline, new
information is being rapidly developed and deployed; and where infor-
mation overload is for many, the norm. Embedding learning into the
day-to-day life of the organization is especially important in those with
short product life cycles.
Our research explores the relative value people place on event-driven,
or formal learning (in classes, or self-training modules) versus informal
learning (through casual conversation, impromptu problem solving ses-
sions, and just working together). A consistent finding for all job types
is that people find informal learning, through informal interactions,
far more important and valuable than formal learning.
The diagram below shows how people learn the most at work.
People in all workspace types (from fully private to fully open)
have very similar scores. Thus, those in the open don’t learn more
through informal interactions than those in enclosed workspaces.
Given how important informal interactions are to the success of
individuals and teams, how well are these interactions supported in
the workplace? Most people seem satisfied with their opportunities for
interactions with colleagues:
80% are satisfied
7% are not satisfied
This overall level of satisfaction is true for all four job types and all
workspace types. However, on closer examination it would seem that
HOW PEOPLE LEARN THE MOST AT WORK (FORMALLY OR INFORMALLY)
(+) YES (-) NO
THROUGH INFORMAL
INTERACTION
THROUGH FORMAL
INTERACTION
.. .TRAINING, SCHEDULED
MEETINGS, ETC.
87% 4%
24%
100% 50% 0% -50% -100%
52%
30
while the opportunities for interaction are satisfactory, many of the impor-
tant work related issues and outcomes are not.
Most employees find it difficult to find out what they need to know
to be useful contributors (44% find it difficult and only 32% find it
relatively easy).
Only about 1/3 (36%) of employees find that the workplace
helps in doing undistracted groupwork.
Only about 2/5 (40%) of people find the workplace supports
impromptu meetings and encounters.
Only about 1/2 (52%) find the workplace supports dropping in to
chat with others.
Only half (50%) find it easy to meet with one other person in their
own workspace.
Only about 1/3 (36%) find it easy to find other people’s workspaces.
Clearly, there is still work to be done to make peoples’ interactions
more efficacious, in which workplace design can play a strong role.
A major conflict between the two most important modes of
work:
“Noise” is both necessary for the business (because it is integral to
verbal transactions, informal learning and collaboration) and also dis-
tracting to neighbors trying to concentrate. Given the effects of distraction,
this business-necessary noise is a productivity and satisfaction enhancer and,
simultaneously, a reducer for others. There is an obvious conflict here.
The conflict will worsen:
As organizations move towards more
enablement of individuals and teams, more remote management and
remote teamwork, and the pace of work quickens, there’s just more inter-
action necessary. Both quiet work and verbal interactions happen largely
in individuals’ workspaces. However, verbal interaction in one’s workspace
reduces the ability of adjacent people to concentrate, the task everybody
needs to do most. In this situation, the most rational and performance-
beneficial design solution is one that provides a substantial amount of
acoustic privacy for each individual and for groups in meetings.
Acceptable levels of acoustic privacy can be attained in an open plan
environment characterized only by normal levels of voiced communica-
tions, and then only if all system components (partitions, ceiling, floor
covering, furniture, and sound masking) are coordinated, designed,
installed, and maintained correctly. Acceptable levels of acoustic pri-
vacy are not achievable in an open plan environment characterized by
31
raised voice situations, where speakerphones are in frequent use or at high
volume settings, or where group activities and discussions regularly occur
within the area of individuals’ workspaces . . . all an increasingly common
set of conditions. (See ASID Sound Solutions: Increasing Office Productivity
Through Integrated Acoustic Planning and Noise Reduction Strategies,
American Society of Interior Designers, 1996.)
Design criteria for acceptable acoustic privacy must be tailored to
accommodate the work behaviors of the space’s occupants. Noise-
producing behaviors vary somewhat from group to group within an
organization. An acceptable acoustic environment may be achieved in
an open plan setting for only some of those behavior patterns. However,
the need for workplace flexibility makes a uniform workplace design that
meets the needs of all the ideal approach, and precludes the use of work-
place acoustic design characteristics that vary significantly from group-
to-group. A common-to-all solution is best.
Research shows that virtually all organizations have groups and indi-
viduals that generate significant amounts of noise in or near their
individual workspaces. So, an acceptable and flexible environment for the
required distraction-free workplace is, in most situations, best exempli-
fied by a design scheme with enclosed individual workspaces, ones with
four walls to the ceiling and a door for each occupant, and properly
constructed to provide acoustic integrity.
The types of workspaces people have versus what they need:
The widespread use of open office planning is a major contributor to
this conflict between the two most necessary and time-consuming facets
of work, and the two that have the strongest effects on performance and
satisfaction. Examining the types of workspace in which individuals are
housed shows a vast majority in open office situations. The following
chart compares the portion of people in enclosed vs. open offices in both
BOSTI’s database, and from the IFMA (International Facility
Management Association) benchmark study in 1996. They are roughly
the same, so we can generalize from BOSTI’s database.
32
This includes managers . . . if they were excluded, the percent in open
workspaces would increase.
A PUZZLEMENT: Of all their time, people in all job types
spend by far the most doing quiet work. Supporting quiet
work is one of the two top productivity enhancers and job
satisfiers. However, two-thirds of those in open offices (the
most prevalent workspace type) are “often distracted by
others’ conversations” and can’t do undistracted work.
PERCENT OF TOTAL WORKSPACE TYPES IN USE
BOSTI Database (2000) vs. IFMA Database (1996)
WORKSPACE TYPE
BOSTI 29%
38%
71%
62%
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
IFMA
BOSTI
IFMA
ENCLOSED
OFFICE
OPEN
OFFICE
% OF TOTAL WORKSPACES
THEN WHY ARE OPEN OFFICES
SO PREVALENT?
There seem to be a set of assumptions about open offices that have
acquired the status of myth, ones that have never been rigorously exam-
ined but can now be explored with these research findings. These widely
held myths seem to be:
MYTH 1
: “We can’t have both distraction-free work and easy
interactions. They’re opposites.”
MYTH 2:
“We can provide a distraction-free open office.”
MYTH 3:
“We are moving towards being a more open
organization, one with better communications.”
MYTH 4:
“We learn more in the open from overhearing others’
conversations.”
MYTH 5:
“We can’t have all enclosed workspaces . . . our space
utilization rate will skyrocket.”
MYTH 6:
“We can’t afford the cost associated with providing
enclosed workspaces.”
Let us examine each of these myths:
MYTH 1:
“We can’t have both distraction-free work and easy
interactions. They’re opposites.”
REALITY:
YES . . . it is easily accomplished. It is quite possible to
design workplaces so that both these critical needs are met, without hav-
ing one compromise the other. Many organizations have built or are con-
templating just such designs. The designs vary, depending on how close
group interaction spaces need to be to individuals’ workspaces, and
whether the interaction spaces are dedicated to a group, or for use by all.
We must remember that one’s own workspace is the site where people
engage in more verbal interaction (as a percentage of their workday) than
any other space in the workplace.
Given the business benefits of informal interactions, all organizations
would benefit from workplaces that increase the frequency of chance
encounters and interactions for individuals, within and across teams.
Cross-team and cross-functional interactions can be supported by work-
place design that brings people together naturally during the normal
33
course of the day, both in circulation spaces and at destinations, like the
cafeteria, parking lots, copy centers, outside the washrooms, at coffee
and mail areas. One circulation scheme that brings people together is a
Main Street (Figures 4 and 5), where services, support spaces, and impor-
tant destinations all front on the primary circulation path. Conversely,
individuals’ workspaces are segregated from the noise and activity of
Main Street, enabling both frequent interaction and distraction-free
work.
Figure 4 — Main Street, Perspective
Figure 5 — Main Street Plan
(Note full-height hard wall between Main Street and individuals’ workspaces)
34
An in-use example of a winding Main Street is the multi-storey Dallas
Office of a major financial services firm, shown in Figure 6. It too, consists
largely of workspaces that are acoustically private and small.
Figure 6 — Financial Services Firm, Dallas, TX
Workplace Analysts: BOSTI Associates, Buffalo, NY
Interior Architect: Sverdrup Facilities, Inc., St. Louis, MO — Built
An example which locates small enclosed workspaces surrounding an
enclosed team-use interaction space is Deloitte & Touche’s Pittsburgh
Consulting Office (Figure 7).
Figure 7 — Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, Pittsburgh, PA
Architect: Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, Pittsburgh, PA — Built
35
36
Detail of Figure 7 — Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, Pittsburgh, PA
The proposed U.S. General Services Administration’s Public Building
Services Region 9 offices in San Francisco (Figure 8) has fully enclosed
individual workspaces served by a 10-foot wide Commons space, useful
for group drawing review and small meetings. The Commons includes
secondary or local circulation for 8 to 10 workspaces. In all these
schemes, major circulation does not run through these group-use spaces,
giving them the ability to do distraction-free group work.
Figure 8 — GSA/Public Building Service, Region 9, San Francisco, CA — Demonstration Project
Workplace Analysts: BOSTI Associates, Buffalo, NY
Interior Architect: Carter-Burgess, Dallas & Ft. Worth, TX — not yet built
37
Detail of Figure 8 — GSA/Public Building Service, Region 9, San Francisco, CA
Are having good communications and supporting distraction-
free work really opposites?
Let’s start with some history: The major premise of Open Office, first
introduced in the 1960’s as “Office Landscape,” was that reducing physi-
cal enclosure for each worker and between groups of workers would pro-
mote useful interaction and communication among workers. Office
Landscape came with a set of rules which, if followed, would supposedly
lead to a high performance office. The underlying assumptions of these
rules were:
Easier communications among workers are an important
organizational benefit.
All communications, even organizationally important ones, are
hindered by enclosure.
The absence of physical barriers between people increases the
frequency and quality of communication.
The loss of physical barriers and the attendant loss of privacy is
a reasonable cost to pay for such enhanced communication.
No one would argue with the first assumption, but the others have never
been tested seriously. These untested underlying assumptions live on and
shape many of our workplaces and our dialogue about workplaces.
In testing these assumptions, the important questions seem
to be: Does physical enclosure reduce ease of communication?
Does physical openness enhance it?
Open offices’ assumptions have it backwards, for the reverse seems to
be the case: a high degree of physical enclosure provides the climate for
high ease and quality of communication, while a low degree of physical
enclosure is a causal factor in low ease and quality of communication.
Therefore, a high degree of enclosure supports both distraction-free
work AND good interaction and communication. There appears to
be little conflict in providing both. Tradeoffs between providing for
distraction-free work and good interactions and communication are
not necessary.
BOSTI’s 1985 2-volume work Using Office Design To Increase Productivity
included findings showing the effects of how much physical enclosure
an individual’s workspace has on support for communications and inter-
action. That database, of some 10,000 respondents, included a wide vari-
ety of levels of enclosure for individuals’ workspaces, from no enclosure
at all (the now seldom-seen “bullpen”) to those with four walls to the
ceiling and a door. In this work, we categorized the range of workspace
enclosures into a gradient of 14 categories, each one being an increase in
how many sides of the workspace are enclosed, and/or in the height of
those panels or walls.
There were 5 levels of sides enclosed: From none (in the “bullpen”)
to four sides enclosed.
There were 4 levels of height of panels: “None”; “Low panels” hav-
ing tops above seated eye height, but below standing eye height; “High
panels” being above standing eye height but not to the ceiling; “Full
walls,” which reach the ceiling.
Analyses of how much acoustic privacy the 14 different levels of
enclosure provide shows it is not a smooth gradient, where acoustic pri-
vacy increases a little as you add to sides or height. Analysis showed these
14 enclosures actually grouped into only four levels. Within each level, all
enclosure types are roughly equivalent in providing acoustic privacy. In
38
39
the following diagram, the Group entitled “no enclosure,” which
includes the bullpen, offers little or no acoustic privacy. Those in the
Group entitled “some enclosure” offer slightly more privacy, those in the
Group entitled “moderate enclosure” more still, and then there is a very
substantial increase in acoustic privacy for the Group “Full Enclosure,”
the workspace with four walls to the ceiling and a door.
These four Groups of enclosure and their attendant acoustic privacy
were then compared to how well they support communication and interac-
tion, as reported by people in these different enclosure levels. The find-
ings, shown below, demonstrate that even 15 years ago it was clear that
low degrees of enclosure inhibit communication and interaction and
high degrees of enclosure support it.
40
MYTH 2:
“We can provide a distraction-free open office.”
REALITY:
You can’t achieve this in situations where raised voice
communications occur, in environments characterized by regularly
occurring impromptu team activities and discussions, or where there
is high speakerphone use in or near individuals’ workspaces . . . all
increasingly common conditions. The expectation of widespread
voice-activated computing, 3 to 5 years out, will transform much of
quiet work into noise-producing work.
The previously mentioned ASID Professional Paper (Sound Solutions) states:
“The most serious problems with distraction from productive
work are caused by overheard conversations that can be clearly
understood by individuals who are not intended to be part of
communication flow. Such conversations engage even passive
listeners from adjacent workstations and contribute to the
heightened sense of being distracted, with its resulting loss of
attention to tasks at hand, and thus at a cost to the passive
listener’s productivity.”
If these conversations are the only source of distraction, and if they are
all conducted at normal levels of voiced communications, then the ASID
paper concludes that normal levels of speech privacy can be attained in the
open office “through integrated use of four types of products simultane-
ously” (ceiling, systems furniture panels, sound masking, and carpet).
However, in most situations there are additional sources of distraction
. . . and raised voice communications are common. This same source also
goes on to state:
“In addition, a confluence of other factors has resulted in office
buildings becoming noisier and noisier over the past five years.
Just a few of these factors include:
Significantly higher workstation densities, with more people
occupying the same physical space, working in closer proximity
to one another in open offices.
The widespread use of speaker phones and the tendency of
office workers to speak more loudly when using them.
Greater use of video conferencing equipment, adding more noise
and concentrating louder noise levels in specific areas of the
workspace.
41
Creation of office team areas which require more interpersonal
interactions, combined with reduced height furniture systems
which allow more speech noise to pass over office divider panels.
The advent of voice-activated computers, with their potential to
contribute to the level of noise as individual workers input and
receive information in verbal form.
An increase in the size of computer screen, from a 13” standard
to 17” standard, with a resultant increase in the reflection of
noise within the individual workspace.”
And, it states:
“It must be noted, however, that all of the resultant (open) office
acoustical design solutions are based on the assumption of
“normal” levels of voiced communications in the environment
of interest. Raised voice situations and speaker telephones
turned to high volume settings do not lend themselves to being
resolved (in the open office) even with state-of-the-art integrated
methods . . .”
Acoustic isolation of team work areas is effective both in containing
its noise and in eliminating distraction for the group’s focus on work.
However, such isolation does nothing to protect individual workers from
noise being produced in or near their own workspace area. Acoustic isola-
tion of the frequent, valuable impromptu encounters that can occur any-
where (often near workspaces) is not feasible.
Thus, the most practical way to contain noise from conversations,
meetings, telephones, and speakerphones (and voice-recognition com-
puting, when it becomes widespread) that originates within individual
workspaces is to enclose them with properly constructed floor-to-ceiling
walls and a door. This also protects individuals from the nearby noise
created by informal interactions which regularly occur in corridors
serving individual workspaces and in informal meeting areas interspersed
among them.
42
MYTH 3:
“We are moving towards being a more open organiza-
tion, one with better communications.”
REALITY:
Open offices do not an open organization make . . . in
fact, open offices often impede the open communications necessary
to organizational openness. Many managers say they want “a more
open organization” and this is often unthinkingly and inappropriately
translated into a call for physical openness. What managers really mean
when say they want “a more open organization” is a place where people
communicate rapidly and easily with each other and can have impromp-
tu, as-needed interaction, so that:
New customer solutions can be swiftly developed using all skills
necessary.
Cross-functional work and learning across disciplines and
business units is supported.
Barriers to collaboration are removed and incentives to it
installed.
People at all levels can comfortably speak their minds.
These are not about physical openness. These are about the removal of
hierarchies and other barriers that limit the flow of ideas and collabora-
tion, and about ways to increase the frequency and utility of work-useful
informal interactions and groupwork.
The chart below shows people’s responses to questions about how
well or how poorly the workplace supports informal interactions and
impromptu meetings by workspace type. It shows that the open
office, rather than helping support such interactions, helps people
less than in enclosed workspaces. So, physical openness somewhat
interferes with good communications and creates barriers of
its own.
WORKSPACE TYPES' EFFECTS ON SUPPORT FOR IMPROMPTU MEETINGS
(+) HELPS (-) HINDERS
70% 0% -70%
PRIVATE OFFICE, SHARED
OPEN OFFICE
PRIVATE OFFICE, ALONE
50% 18%
54% 19%
34% 18%
43
Our survey asks respondents whether the workplace supports people
dropping in to chat in their workspaces (one of the components of infor-
mal impromptu interaction). Analysis shows that overall, 52% of people
feel the workplace does support “dropping in to chat” (and 18% don’t).
Examined by workspace type, more people in private offices than in
open offices feel the workplace supports “dropping in to chat.” The chart
below illustrates this point.
About “Caves and Commons”:
One of the current popular ideas
about the workplace is “caves and commons” . . . a concept where indi-
viduals have small distraction-free workspaces (“caves”) grouped around
an open common space that serves both as circulation and as meeting
space (“a commons”).
This concept assumes that group work can be effective when done in
the open. Our data show that one of the top 10 priorities (#3 actually)
affecting performance and satisfaction is provision for undistracted
groupwork. Clearly, groups need the same freedom from distraction to
get group-focused work done as do individuals. Thus, a high-performance
workplace must allow group work to be sequestered in spaces designed
for that activity. Unfortunately, only about half (54%) of the people in
our database find undistracted groupwork well supported. So “caves” is a
good idea, but working in a “commons” with major through traffic (and
its accompanying noise and distraction) isn’t.
MYTH 4:
“We learn more in the open by overhearing conversations.”
REALITY:
In general, most people don’t learn much this way, and
people in the open learn no more from overhearing others’ conver-
sations than do those in private offices. And, those in the open don’t
find out what they need to know to be a useful contributor any more
than those in more enclosed workspaces.
Contrary to the preconceptions of many who think more open
WORKSPACE TYPES' EFFECTS ON "DROPPING IN TO CHAT"
(+) HELPS (-) HINDERS
70% 0% -70%
PRIVATE OFFICE, SHARED
OPEN OFFICE
PRIVATE OFFICE, ALONE
67% 10%
62% 14%
43% 22%
communications would be better served by more physical openness, few
employees learn very much from overhearing others’ conversations,
regardless of their workspace type. So, this (supposed) virtue of the
physical openness of open offices is not really true.
The chart below shows the percentage of people, by workspace type,
who do and don’t learn a lot from overhearing others’ conversations. It
demonstrates two things: 1) most people don’t learn much from over-
hearing others’ conversations, and 2) it is not helped by being in an open
office, since the chart shows similar scores for those in all workspace
types.
If people don’t learn by overhearing others’ conversations, how do
they find out what they need to know to be useful contributors to the
business? First of all, they learn far more through informal channels while
doing their work than they do through training and formal meetings.
But a finding that suggests a problem for many organizations is that
for most people, it is not easy to find out what they need to know to be
a useful contributor to the organization . . . 44% don’t find it easy, while
only 32% do. Given that this type of knowledge is typically obtained
through informal channels, the average workplace is not being very sup-
portive of these modes of interaction. And this finding is not affected
HOW PEOPLE LEARN THE MOST AT WORK (FORMALLY OR INFORMALLY)
(+) YES (-) NO
THROUGH INFORMAL
INTERACTION
THROUGH FORMAL
INTERACTION
.. .TRAINING, SCHEDULED
MEETINGS, ETC.
87% 4%
24%
100% 50% 0% -50% -100%
52%
LEARNING FROM OVERHEARING OTHERS' CONVERSATIONS, by workspace type
(+) DO LEARN THIS WAY (-) DON'T LEARN THIS WAY
70% 0% -70%
PRIVATE OFFICE, SHARED
OPEN OFFICE
PRIVATE OFFICE, ALONE
18% 47%
19%
22%
59%
58%
44
45
by whether people are in enclosed workspaces or open workspaces
because people in the open score no higher, and in some cases lower,
than those in enclosed workspace on “ease of finding out what I
need to know to be a useful contributor.”
MYTH 5:
“We can’t have all enclosed workspaces . . . our space
utilization rate will skyrocket.”
REALITY:
Enclosed spaces don’t have to be large. The size of an
individual’s workspace has little to do with its ability to reduce dis-
traction. Only its enclosure does.
If we look at the effects of providing for more acoustic privacy
versus providing workspaces of larger size, we see that being able to
do distraction-free work matters far more than larger size.
About distraction:
The data show that people housed in acoustically-
private workspaces (even small ones) as compared with those who work
in open workspaces, have higher job satisfaction; are more productive;
do better teamwork; have more productive meetings in the workspace;
are involved in more useful informal interactions; can do more focused
work; have fewer visual distractions; are more physically comfortable;
learn more from others; and communicate with peers better.
About workspace size:
The data show that people housed in larger
workspaces, compared with those in smaller workspaces, benefit on only
a few factors obviously related to size. They are more likely to feel they
have enough space; their worksurfaces are large enough; and are more
satisfied with their workspace.
In examining workspace sizes in our 13,000-person database, we find
that the vast bulk of workspaces (87%) are 100 sq.ft. or less; two-thirds of
them are no greater than 80 sq.ft.; and 40% are no greater than 64 sq.ft.
The trend has clearly been towards smaller workspaces.
EASY TO FIND OUT WHAT I NEED TO KNOW TO BE A USEFUL CONTRIBUTOR
(-) IS NOT EASY(+) IS EASY
32% 44%
60% 0% -60%
46
So, it is far more important (for the business and for individuals) for
the individual’s workspace to provide for a distraction-free environment
than it is for it to be large. For people doing mostly solo work or inter-
acting side-by-side with one other person in the workspace, the “very
small private office” makes good business sense . . . one of 52 to 64
sq.ft. We’ve called them “Cockpit Offices.” People with more interactive
jobs and who frequently need to meet with two others in their workspaces
need larger ones to accommodate two visitors’ chairs and a transaction
surface . . . 75 sq. ft. to 110 sq. ft.
Over 100 S.F.
100 S.F. or less = 87%
80 S.F. or less = 65%
64 S.F. or less = 40%
64 S.F.
80 S.F.
100 S.F.
40% 25% 22% 13%
36 S.F. to 64 S.F. 80 S.F. to 100 S.F.64 S.F. to 80 S.F.
0% 100%
PERCENT OF ALL PEOPLE IN VARIOUS WORKSPACE SIZES
Perspective of
Typical
Cockpit Office
47
A question sometimes asked is “will a small private office feel too con-
stricting, like a phone booth?” Many such “cockpit offices” have been
built in financial service companies, software development companies,
and in sales offices, and they’ve been deemed highly successful by their
occupants and by the company.
Plan of Typical 6’ 6” x 8’ Cockpit Office
Plan of Typical 8’ x 8’ Cockpit Office
MYTH 6:
“We can’t afford the cost associated with providing
enclosed workspace.”
REALITY:
That only seems to be the case when the facility metrics
used are based on cost alone. If you factor in the monetary value of
the business benefits, you can’t afford not to do it when enclosed
workspaces support the business more effectively.
Clearly, some costs can increase with having enclosed workspaces,
even small ones. The first cost of heating, ventilating, and air condition-
ing (HVAC), for example, increases with more enclosed workspace, if
each workspace is its own zone with its own controls.
Real Estate and Facilities groups are traditionally judged by cost metrics
only . . . like cost/person and cost/square foot. The assumption underlying
these metrics is that the workplace is seen as a necessary cost, not as a
business tool. Decisions about office workplace investments are primarily
viewed in a cost-only manner, and decisions seem to be a choice between
spending more or spending less. In these cases, less usually wins. Cost- ben-
efit analyses are seldom done, because data about the benefit side of the
equation of a high-performance workplace have not been readily available.
The research described earlier has shown that the design of the workplace
and workspace has substantial effects on individual performance, team per-
formance, and job satisfaction. A research-based approach to workplace
needs definition can identify those workplace qualities and features that
have the strongest direct effects on these bottom-line measures. Predictive
relationships can be determined . . . for example, improved support for par-
ticular work activities can predict improvements in performance and/or
satisfaction. The approach also identifies those aspects of the workplace
that are providing the poorest support for work in the current environment.
Using this approach, the benefits associated with specific workplace
changes that address unmet or poorly supported needs, such as acoustic
privacy attained through enclosure, can be predicted. The improvement
in performance can be translated into dollars using an organization’s
accepted practices for economic analyses. Using pre and post-occupancy
surveys, improvements can be measured after implementation to sub-
stantiate the benefits actually realized and build a database of informa-
tion for use in subsequent economic analyses.
Being cost-competitive is important to any organization, and is a major
responsibility of a facility manager. Both sides of the equation have to be
considered. It doesn’t make sense to avoid expenditures if they will produce
benefits and offer a return greater than their costs to the organization. It
doesn’t make sense to become more cost-only competitive if the result is
48
damaging to job performance or negatively impacts job satisfaction enough
to cause problems with the recruitment and retention of good people. A
change in the culture is often necessary to allow development and consid-
eration of a business case that places the incremental costs associated with
workplace design and construction in perspective with their benefits.
A post-script to our examination of these myths
If this research clearly shows that open offices are performance and
satisfaction reducers, and are often barriers to interaction, then why are
there so many open offices . . . and why have there been recent trends in
some places to make things even more open. Some reasons seem to be:
About understanding the effects of the workplace:
Many busi-
ness unit managers, facility managers, and designers just have not been
fully aware of research demonstrating the powerful, beneficial effects that
enclosure has on important business outcomes. While other research with
similar findings has been available, it has, strangely, not been heeded.
Perhaps because, until now, there was little information about the magni-
tude of the business benefits of more enclosure as compared with the costs
of more enclosure. The business case just wasn’t established.
There may also be a benchmarking effect where, if many others have
open offices, companies think it must be good for them too. We hope
that these research findings help to change this so that each organization
does the analyses necessary to realize a workplace that would help its
workers and its business be more productive and satisfying.
About the force of marketing:
Another reason is that the open
office, most often built of integrated systems of partitions and furniture, is
a product, one that is heavily marketed, and the industry that makes these
products is a forceful lobby, both in the design and the business commu-
nity. Conversely, the private or distraction-free workspace is not a product,
but built of a collection, from different vendors, of products and materials
(like drywall and studs or demountable partition components) that can
form many kinds of spaces. While some vendors have developed and
marketed fully enclosed workspaces, it has generally not been developed
as an easily marketable commodity, and there is no effective lobby for it.
This is not meant to belittle the many fine attributes of systems fur-
niture products. Freestanding versions of systems furniture are what
BOSTI most often recommends for use inside individual workspaces . . .
they offer good ergonomic support for tasks, with many worksurface and
49
storage options. Many current open plan wall products offer excellent wire
management capability and flexibility of reuse and reconfiguration for
applications where satisfactory acoustic privacy can be achieved in an
open plan setting. The marketing of the open plan office has highlighted
these advantages, but downplayed or ignored the shortcomings.
Workplace design should take advantage of the many excellent prod-
ucts and materials available, but they should be used wisely to provide
maximum support for work important to the organization’s real needs.
The outcome of BOSTI’s research findings (both in 1985 and now)
should offer reason to business managers and their designers to rethink
the open plan approach and carefully consider its limiting effects on
successful interactions, job performance, and satisfaction.
About the idea of flexibility:
Many believe the open office to be
more flexible considering our climate of frequent reorganizations.
Flexibility strategies other than the open office are becoming wide-
spread. Flexibility is now increasingly achieved through the use of one or
two-sizes-fit-all workspaces in a modular floorplate planning grid (both
a boon for the facility manager). In such a scheme, the ability to relocate
and reconfigure open office products is less and less frequently exercised.
And if flexibility of reuse and relocation is needed, it is quite achievable
with full-height partition systems.
About the force of images:
There seems to be another myth
emerging about openness, that physical openness leads to more energy,
more “buzz.” This idea seems to spring from New Economy dot.com
start-ups and internet ventures. These start-up workplaces are highly
imageable and much published in the design press, which helps propel
this emerging myth. The idea offered is that when you tear down the
walls, the energy level, the “buzz” increases, and furthermore, that
opening up individuals’ offices also (somehow) frees their minds. One
wonders what, if any, rigorous information supports those claims. Our
research on 13,000 people in many types of companies shows that
physical openness does not support: useful business discussions; learn-
ing by overhearing; focused individual work; or focused teamwork. And
these findings are echoed in most other studies.
There are assumptions behind those New Economy workplace ideas
that need some serious scrutiny. One is that tearing down the walls
creates “energy.” In any company that’s run right, where people pull
together, and where there are good communications, the “energy” is there,
already. But, in a place where people have enough enclosure to accomplish
50
51
their focused work, you just can’t see it . . . can’t see the many conversations
that take place in people’s workspaces, the work side-by-side at a screen,
the whiteboard discussions, and the very animated phone conversations,
often on speakerphone with several others. Tearing down the walls does
not make the energy, it may just expose what is already there to view. The
research evidence shows that informal interactions are, in fact, hindered
by fully open workspaces. And confidential, formal, or personal conversa-
tions (all of which occur in the workplace) cannot occur in openness, if
others are around.
Tearing down the walls may be a good approach in some specific
instances, but only where that type of workplace actually supports both
individual and team performance better than any other approach. Almost
every workplace can benefit from open spaces used for group interaction
and to create a sense of group identity, but those are not the places where
individuals or teams can get focused work done.
Another assumption is that tearing down the walls frees people’s
minds. The opposite is true. The research shows that for most of the work
day, the individual’s mind needs to focus and be creative without
distraction, without interruption of that sublime state that software
developers call “flow.”
The workplaces of e-startups are, most often, highly constrained
design problems . . . ones with very low budgets, extremely fast schedules
and dealing with much uncertainty (“we could double in size in a month,
or be out of business”). A seeming best economic strategy for e-startups is
to spend their precious resources solely on product development, to get it
to market fast and to secure further funding. Many employees make some
near-term sacrifice, accepting a lesser salary for stock options, their per-
sonal bet on the product’s future. Very little is budgeted for the work-
place. Such conditions lead to use of least cost, often high-image designs,
many using colorful fabric on frames as space dividers (if there are any),
mobile off-the-shelf industrial furnishings, and found materials, often
touted as a “fun office.” The most oft-reported problem in these fun
offices is that there’s no place to concentrate, and many e-employees
work at home, or seek out the few enclosed spaces available.
Many New Economy employees, of an age who’ve never worked in
offices before, have little sense of the ways in which more appropriate
workplaces could better support their work . . . both their needs for distrac-
tion-free work and for interaction. It is critical to remember that even in
the most team-oriented New Economy software development companies
in BOSTI’s database, 1/2 to 2/3 of all time is still spent doing focused
work alone. That’s where most of the true energy lies.
52
WISE USE OF RESEARCH FINDINGSI
The focus of this booklet has been on the two top priority workplace
strategies, the ones that have the most consistent and powerful effects on
individual and team performance and on satisfaction. These are 1) reducing
the distractions from conversational and other noise made by colleagues
and 2) increasing the levels and types of support for informal interactions.
Both of these can be accomplished without one compromising the other. If
one (or both) is compromised, there are real costs to the business, in both
lost productivity and higher attrition, and more difficult recruitment of the
best and the brightest — a company’s “intellectual capital.”
Strategies for Increasing Productivity
and Satisfaction By Reducing Distractions
There are three general sources of distraction:
SOURCE 1:
Noise from the general office area, public spaces and
circulation.
To solve Source 1: Always segregate individual workspaces from these
public and circulation spaces.
Example: Below is a floorplate design that has two busy “Main
Streets” next to the core. All workspaces open onto quiet, short “side
streets” and none onto a Main Street.
Sun Microsystems Sales Office, Atlanta, GA
Workplace Analysts: BOSTI Associates, Buffalo, NY
Architect: HOK Design, Atlanta, GA — Built
53
Detail of Floorplan above — All doors open on quiet side streets
SOURCE 2:
Noise generated in workspaces of adjacent workgroups.
To solve Source 2: Enclose each workgroup within sound-isolating
walls, but provide the group with open office workspaces. Sometimes
this kind of solution isn’t flexible enough because workgroup sizes do
vary. However, it is a very good strategy if the best solution (enclosed
workspaces) is not achievable.
Ericsson, Raleigh, NC
Workplace Analysts: BOSTI Associates, Buffalo, NY
Architect: ARCADIS, Geraghty & Miller, Raleigh, NC — Built
54
Detail of Acoustically Isolated Workgroup
SOURCE 3:
Noise generated in the workspaces of one’s own workgroup.
To solve Source 3: Provide ceiling-high walls and doors for each indi-
vidual. This is flexible (if one-or-two-sizes-fits-all workspaces are utilized)
because group boundaries can easily change and is effective in the face
of speakerphone use and interaction noise.
Partial Floorplan
GSA/Public Building Service, Region 9, San Francisco, CA
Workplace Analysts: BOSTI Associates, Buffalo, NY
Interior Architect: Carter-Burgess, Dalllas & Fort Worth, TX — Not yet built
55
Detail Drawing of Partial Floorplan
A Strategy for Making Wise Office Workplace Investments
A best strategy:
By quantifying specific aspects of the workplace
that have the strongest effects on productivity and job satisfaction, we can
set real planning and design priorities. These can maximize the value of any
facility investment to the business. By using these priorities in planning and
design, which carefully examine what individuals and workgroups really
do, high-performance work environments can be developed and tailored
to an organization’s
specific work needs.
Not every aspect of
the workplace affects
performance or satis-
faction. Many aspects
of the office that do
affect performance and
satisfaction act fairly
independently of each
other. Thus, with more
precise information,
incremental improve-
ments can be made without total office redesign and major investments.
Knowing which aspects of office environment affect bottom line
Job Satisfaction
Effects of:
Average
EFFECTS
of
WORKPLACE
Individual Performance
Team Performance
11%
89%
95%
5%
24%
76%
• Technology
• Pay/ Incentives
• Advancement Opportunity
• Skill-to -Task Matching
• Direction by Managers
• Work/Life Balance
•. . . Other Factors
AVERAGE EFFECTS OF THE WORKPLACE
measures and which don’t, and how they interact, should alter what
managers demand in new facilities, what designers emphasize in designs,
and how workplaces get managed.
WORKPLACE QUALITIES WITH THE STRONGEST EFFECTS / RANKED
Ability to do distraction-free solo work
Support for impromptu interactions (both in one’s workspace and elsewhere)
Support for meetings and undistracted groupwork
Workspace comfort and enough space for work tools
Workspace supports side-by-side work and “dropping in to chat”
Located near or can easily find coworkers
Workplace has good places for breaks
Access to needed technology
Quality lighting and access to daylight
Temperature control and air quality
Sometimes the company suggests that Real Estate and Facilities
groups use metrics for success that don’t recognize the productivity and
satisfaction benefits of a high-performance workplace (like cost per sq.ft.
or cost per person). If this continues, then the only goal can be less space
and less cost, goals highly likely to backfire on any business dependent
on the performance and satisfaction of individuals and teams.
The office is more than just a cost center. It can be an investment with
clear benefits and a measurable return and is yet another productivity
tool to be used intelligently. The major strategic workplace breakthrough
we see is not any emerging new technology, design theme or physical
layout, but a “thinking breakthrough” about what office design is for . . .
the idea that carefully designing your workplace to support what
your people and teams actually do is an investment that pays off in
both business terms and in positive changes in corporate culture.
56
57
PROPORTIONAL COSTS OF WORK (10 YEARS)
82% 10%
3%
5%
APPENDIX A
BOSTI’S QUESTIONNAIRE — ABOUT SELF-REPORTING OF
PERFORMANCE METHODOLOGY
One seeming limitation of our research is our reliance on individuals’
self-reports of performance, and the possibility that people may inflate
their ratings of their own performance. We use this method because it is
low-cost, efficient and effective, and we take the proper steps to reduce
bias. Respondents to our survey are promised anonymity and confiden-
tiality. Research within the psychological literature has shown that guar-
antees of confidentiality and anonymity increase response rate and
reduce self-report bias. Even supervisors’ ratings are likely to reflect some
bias in judgement based either on pre-existing expectations or amount
of exposure to the worker.
In today’s knowledge-worker economy, where performance cannot be
linked specifically to “number of units” produced as is typically the case
with factory workers, it is very difficult to develop a clear-cut non-biased
metric for performance evaluation. In our extensive research on this
topic, we have not come across any objective “gold standard”, nor are
there any clear and consistent metrics used across individual organiza-
tions. Therefore, our reliance on self-ratings of concrete performance-
linked behaviors (e.g., frequency of meeting deadlines) is among one
of the best methods of evaluation that we have available to us.
In BOSTI’s previous nationwide research program involving some
10,000 responses across some 70 organizations, we received both individ-
ual self-ratings and supervisors’ ratings. Analysis showed very little differ-
ence in the pattern of strengths and weaknesses reported by the individual
and the supervisor. Supervisors’ evaluations were consistently one point
lower than self evaluations. Because we are interested in comparing rela-
tive performance (e.g., the performance of those in private offices versus
those in cubicles), and not absolute levels of performance, error intro-
duced by self-inflated ratings of performance is not likely to result in any
great error in the estimation of relationships among variables.
58
APPENDIX B
ABOUT THE JOB TYPES IN THE RESEARCH DATABASE
The findings are strong and consistent across a wide variety of indus-
tries, and varied some by major category of job type. These major cate-
gories, in which many job titles can be placed are the products of analysis.
So, while there are several hundred specific job types in the data base,
analysis of them was simplified by the discovery that many of these var-
ious job types behave much like others, and that most of these job types
can be grouped into a few sets which exhibit common work behaviors.
We call these sets “FUNCTIONAL JOB TYPES”. There are four that are
common to all organizations in our database and account for the vast
bulk of the workforce in all companies: Managers, Engineers &
Technical, Non-Engineering Professionals, and Administrative. Since
it is behavior that design affects, these four behaviorally-based functional
job types have been used in both our consulting projects and in reporting
the research.
In our database, the relative proportion of these four major functional
job types is shown below, as is a sample of the job titles in each
functional job type category:
• MANAGERS 26% Directors, Partners, Managers, Program
and Project Managers
• PROFESSIONALS 34% Financial Analysts, Management
Consultants, Auditors, Procurement and
Contracting, Sales, Human Resources,
Marketing, Site Services
• ENGINEERS & 28% Software, Hardware, Systems, Mechanical,
Test, Electrical and Aerospace Engineers,
and other Technical job types
• ADMINISTRATIVE 9% Administrative Assistant, Clerical Support
• OTHER 3%
59
TECHNICAL
60
ABOUT THE INDUSTRIES IN THE RESEARCH DATABASE
The database consists largely of some 13,000 responses from three
major industries: Manufacturing, Financial Services Organizations, and
Engineering and Technology (software and hardware).
The percentage of responses in the database are:
• MANUFACTURING 37%
• FINANCIAL SERVICES 32%
• ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY 30%
• OTHER 2%
Database growth:
On average, our database grows by 3,000 responses per year. We have
an average response rate of 40% of all those surveyed, so the 13,000
responses are quite representative of the workplaces of the industry types
in the database.
APPENDIX C
10 YEAR WORKPLACE COSTS VS. PEOPLE COSTS, 1998 – 2008
ASSUMPTIONS & DATA SOURCES TEN YEAR COSTS
(rounded)
• Square feet per worker = 286 S.F. “all in”
(IFMA Benchmarks III Report, 1997)
• New Building and Interior @ $130/ S.F. x 286 S.F. . . . . . . . . . .$37,200
(April 1999, Building Standards, Class A Construction, NYC)
For a high workplace cost scenario, we use the very high cost construction
market of New York City. Costs are for hard costs of construction, and do
not include development and finance costs, which vary so widely as to
preclude any estimate.
Furniture set = $5,000 with $3,000 of upgrades
over 10 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$8,000
(Industry standard: $3,500 to $5,000)
Operations costs @ $9.86/ rentable sq.ft.,
up 4%/yr: $118.34/RSF x 286 S.F. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$33,800
Includes: maintenance, janitorial, utilities, environment, life-safety,
security, project costs, space planning, amenities (IFMA Benchmarks III
Report, 1997)
Technology Support (hardware, software,
infrastructure, training) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100,000
(From survey of BOSTI clients: $10,000/ year)
Salary: 1998 Computer Programmer @ $49,570, up 3.62%/ year
10 year total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$585,000
Median Annual Wage: U.S. Occupational
Employment Statistics
Up 3.62% per year: past ten year wage and $790,000
salary growth (1988-1998): Bureau of Labor Statistics,
employment cost trends
Benefits: .35 x salary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$205,000
Private industry white collar workers, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, news release, June 29, 2000
61
62
ANALYSIS OF TOTAL COSTS OF WORK, 10 YEARS, ONE EMPLOYEE
COST COMPONENT FOR 10 YEARS % OF TOTAL
New Building and Interior $37,200 3.8%
Furniture Set $8,000 0.8%
Maintenance & Operations $33,800 3.5%
Technology Support $100,000 10.3%
Employee Salary and Benefits $790,000 81.5%
TOTAL $969,000 100%
4.6%
8.1%
BOSTI ASSOCIATES
This publication is the result of a highly collaborative effort among
5 major contributors at BOSTI Associates: Michael Brill, President; Dr. Sue
Weidemann, Director of Research; John Olson, Vice President; Ellen Bruce
Keable, Vice President; and Dr. Lisa Allard, Senior Research Associate.
BOSTI (the Buffalo Organization for Social and Technological Innovation),
is a Buffalo, NY based group with a 30 year history of continuous innova-
tion in workplace research, planning and design. BOSTI has pioneered in
the research-driven application of innovative workplace solutions . . .
high-performance design to support new forms of work, hotelling, and
work-from-anywhere. BOSTI’s work, oft published, quoted and emulated,
has changed the business landscape profoundly.
MICHAEL BRILL
Michael Brill is a founder and President
of BOSTI Associates and Professor of
Architecture at the State University of New
York at Buffalo. Brill has published more
than 70 papers, articles, monographs,
books, book sections, and authored a
monthly column for Interiors Magazine. He
has won many awards for his design-
research, including the 1998 Star Award
from IIDA (International Interior Design
Association) and “Distinguished Author of
the Year” from IFMA (International Facility
Managers Association) in 1990. His research
projects have won 7 national awards from
various design magazines.
63
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Assessing building user needs and preferences is widespread and often questionnaire surveys are applied in order to assess environmental perception and satisfaction. A central question in this context is the quality of the questionnaires used, but little is known regarding their reliability. The present study addresses interdisciplinary aspects such as engineering and psychological sciences to answer the questions: Are the same item sets applicable in various settings (e.g., seasons)? Is there any difference in the reliability of item sets assessing user satisfaction in field vs. laboratory research? In the present study, reliability analyses of an itemset regarding satisfaction with indoor climate including the ASHRAE thermal sensation scale (single-item) as well as the thermal preference question were conducted with respect to season, office type, age group, and sex. Field data were gathered via post occupancy evaluation from 46 office buildings in Germany. Additionally, comparable items from laboratory research were subjected to a reliability analysis. Results revealed predominantly good to excellent Cronbach’s alpha values for the field studies. The values from the laboratory study were lower, although comparable (acceptable), partly due to the differences in variation in responses in field vs. laboratory settings. Results showed that questionnaires assessing user’s satisfaction need to be set in relation with the given context for reliable interpretation. Further research could validate our results with larger samples for laboratory data. Interdisciplinary research is necessary in order to further develop methodological approaches in the field of user comfort research.
Chapter
Die evolutionäre Anpassung des Menschen an seine Umwelt vollzog sich über einen sehr langen Zeitraum und ist auch heute noch wirksam. Verhaltensweisen, die in der Vergangenheit vorteilhaft waren, erscheinen aber heute, im Kontext unserer modernen Lebensumstände, paradox und hinderlich. Ein Verständnis für die Bedürfnisse und Voraussetzungen des Systems Mensch ist daher eine wichtige Grundlage, um mit dem zivilisatorischen Konflikt unsere Unangepasstheit umgehen zu können. Nicht zuletzt die Rolle der gebauten Umwelt ist dabei bisher stark unterschätzt worden. Die Sinneseindrücke von Räumen beeinflussen unser Befinden und unser Verhalten zu einem erheblichen Teil. Es gilt Architektur als sensorisches Relief zu verstehen und richtig einzusetzen. Somit eröffnet sich ein weitreichendes Potenzial für die Gestaltung von Arbeitsumgebungen mit vielfältigen positiven Effekten. Das Büro wird damit zum strategischen Werkzeug, um sowohl unternehmerische als auch individuelle Verbesserungen zu erzielen.
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