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Purpose This paper aims to explore, which characteristics of activity-based offices are related to the position of workers on the burnout – engagement continuum. Design/methodology/approach Literature review and an online survey amongst knowledge workers in the Netherlands, which provided data of 184 respondents from 14 organisations. The data has been analysed by descriptive statistics, bivariate analyses, factor analyses and path analysis, to test the conceptual model. Findings Five physical work environment constructs were identified of which three showed to have significant relations with employees’ position on one of the three dimensions of the burnout – engagement continuum. Distraction has a direct and indirect (through overload) negative relation with the individual strain (meaning increased exhaustion). Office comfort has indirect positive relations (through recognition and appreciation) with the interpersonal strain (meaning increased involvement). The possibility for teleworking has an indirect positive relation (through control) on the self-evaluation strain (meaning increased efficacy). Practical implications The findings show that in the design and management of a healthy physical work environment, corporate real estate managers and human resource managers should particularly pay attention to lowering distraction, providing comfortable workplaces and considering the option of teleworking to some extent. Originality/value This paper provides new insights into the impact of distinct activity-based workplace characteristics on workers’ position on the burnout – engagement continuum.
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Impact of activity-based
workplaces on burnout and
engagement dimensions
Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek
Department of the Built Environment, Eindhoven University of Technology,
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Theo van der Voordt
Department of Management in the Built Environment, Faculty of Architecture,
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands and
Center for People and Buildings, Delft, The Netherlands
Rik Aussems
vb&t Vastgoedmanagement bv, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Theo Arentze
Department of the Built Environment, Eindhoven University of Technology,
Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and
Pascale Le Blanc
Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences,
Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Purpose This paper aims to explore, which characteristics of activity-based ofces are related to the
position of workers on the burnout engagement continuum.
Design/methodology/approach Literature review and an online survey amongst knowledge workers
in the Netherlands, which provided data of 184 respondents from 14 organisations. The data has been
analysed by descriptive statistics, bivariate analyses, factor analyses and path analysis, to test the conceptual
Findings Five physical work environment constructs were identied of which three showed to have
signicant relations with employeesposition on one of the three dimensions of the burnout engagement
continuum. Distraction has a direct and indirect (through overload) negative relation with the individual
strain (meaning increasedexhaustion). Ofce comfort has indirect positive relations (through recognition and
appreciation) with the interpersonal strain (meaning increased involvement). The possibility for teleworking
has an indirect positive relation (through control) on the self-evaluation strain (meaning increased efcacy).
Practical implications The ndings show that in the design and management of a healthy physical
work environment, corporate real estate managers and human resource managers should particularly pay
© Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek, Theo van der Voordt, Rik Aussems, Theo Arentze and Pascale Le
Blanc. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative
Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create
derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full
attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://
Burnout and
Received 13 September2019
Revised 2 March 2020
11 May 2020
18 June 2020
Accepted 30 June2020
Journal of Corporate Real Estate
Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JCRE-09-2019-0041
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
attention to lowering distraction, providing comfortable workplaces and considering the option of
teleworking to some extent.
Originality/value This paper provides new insights into the impact of distinct activity-based workplace
characteristics on workersposition on the burnout engagement continuum.
Keywords Burnout, Engagement, Health, Distraction, Comfort, Activity-based workplaces
Paper type Research paper
According to Maslach and Leiter (1997), peoples psychological relationship to their job can
be positioned on a continuum between the negative experience of burnout and the positive
experience of engagement. Burnout can be dened as a state of mental and physical
exhaustion caused by ones professional life (Freudenberger, 1974). It is associated with
psychological and physical health problems (Schaufeli and Enzmann, 1998;Shirom et al.,
2005), job dissatisfaction, low levels of commitment and destabilisation of ones work-life
balance (Grawitch et al.,2006), increased sickness absence (Schaufeli et al.,2009) and
reduced productivity and job performance (Maslach and Leiter, 2008). The opposite on the
continuum, work engagement, is dened as a positive, fullling, work-related state of mind
that is characterised by vigour, dedication and absorption (Schaufeli et al., 2002). The
engagement has been associated with high levels of energy, pleasure, activation and
commitment (Parker and Grifn, 2011). Engaged workers appear to be more open to new
experiences, explore their work environments and, in doing so, become more creative
(Fredrickson, 2001).
In a present-day competitive society with its war on talent, employees are recognised as
the most valuable assets of the organisation. Regarding corporate real estate (CRE)
management, it is, thus, important to better understand the role of the physical environment
in reducing the risk of burnout and instead of stimulating engagement. In line with the
person-environment t theory, a suboptimal t between the work environment and
employeesneeds and abilities would otherwise result in stress (Edwards et al., 1998). This
could mean that a poor ofce workplace might push people towards the negative side of the
burnout-engagement continuum (BEC). So far, studies on healthy workplaces have focussed
mostly on isolated design aspects such as plants, indoor climate and sick building syndrome
(Arif et al., 2016). Knowledge about the impact of activity-based workplaces (ABW) on
health is very limited (Engelen et al.,2019). We only found one study that included the BEC
(Van Steenbergen et al.,2018). This before-after study (amongst 126 employees of a large
Dutch provider of nancial services) showed new ways of working to be benecial in
reducing mental demands and workload. It did not harm relationships with supervisors and
co-workers, but autonomy and possibilities for professional development decreased.
Burnout and work engagement remained stable over time. The current paper further
explores, which characteristics of ABW inuence employeesposition on the BEC. A
literature-based conceptual model is tested through path analysis for relations and effect
sizes. The model incorporates physical work environment characteristics as independent
variables, job-related situational characteristics as mediators and individual characteristics
as control variables.
Burnout and engagement: dimensions and inuencing factors
Maslach and Leiter (1997) distinguished three sub-dimensions in their BEC theory as
follows: individual strain (exhaustion energy), interpersonal strain (depersonalisation
involvement) and self-evaluation strain (inefcacy efcacy). Exhaustion refers to feelings
of being overextended and depleted of ones emotional and physical resources. It is related to
work fatigue, i.e. extreme physical, mental and/or emotional tiredness and reduced
functional capacity (Frone and Tidwell, 2015). It is the most widely reported and most
thoroughly analysed dimension (Maslach et al., 2001;Maslach and Leiter, 2008), with energy
as the engagement opposite. Depersonalisation refers to a negative or excessively detached
response to various aspects of the job (Maslach et al., 2001). To make this depersonalisation
dimension applicable in multiple industries, Schaufeli et al. (1996) replaced
depersonalisation by the term cynicism, reecting a distant attitude towards work, with
involvement as the engagement opposite. Inefcacy refers to feelings of incompetence and
declined personal achievements at work (Maslach et al.,2001;Maslach and Leiter, 2008),
with efcacy as the engagement opposite. The three dimensions are included as dependent
variables in our conceptual model, see Figure 1.
The antecedents of burnout and engagement are often classied into individual factors
and situational factors (Maslach et al.,2001;Bakker and Demerouti, 2008). In this paper, the
individual variables are incorporated as control variables, whereas the situational
characteristics are treated as mediators between the BEC dimensions and the characteristics
of the physical work environment (the independent variables). Besides being antecedents of
the BEC, these situational factors are likely to be inuenced by the ABW as well. See
Figure 1 for the full model that is tested in this study. The next literature review will explain
the four main hypotheses and the variables chosen for each box to test these hypotheses.
Activity-based workplaces
In the past decades, various new ofce concepts have been developed to support optimal use
of the available space and to empower knowledge workers to work more efciently and
effectively. ABW is characterised by the shared use of different types of workplaces that are
supposed to optimally t with different ofce tasks, mainly in open and semi-open settings.
The additional support by modern information and communication technology (ICT)
provides workers more autonomy and freedom to work how, when and where they nd this
most appropriate (Van der Voordt, 2004;Haapakangas et al.,2019). Such new ways of
(exible) working may provide better opportunities for communication, collaboration and
interaction (Engelen et al.,2019), but are also associated with less social cohesion amongst
co-workers, referring to a lower sense of community. Complaints include lack of privacy and
concentration, loss of storage space and loss of personal and group identity by not being
Figure 1.
Conceptual model
Burnout and
able to personalise the workspace (Gorgievski et al.,2010). In particular distraction by
conversations of colleagues and phone calls and lack of visual and auditory privacy cause
dissatisfaction amongst employees (Brunia et al.,2016). So far, it remains unclear whether
ABWs would have a positive or negative inuence on workersposition on the BEC and how
their characteristics relate to the three distinct dimensions.
Vos et al. (1999) and De Croon et al. (2005) argue that ofces can be described according to
three constructs, being ofce location (place of work: at the ofce versus teleworking at
home/third places), ofce layout (space design i.e. open plan, cellular ofces, team ofces or
combi-ofces) and ofce use (personal desks versus non-assigned desks). Haynes (2007a)
developed a model with two constructs as follows: the physical environment and the
behavioural environment, each with two subcomponents, respectively, ofce layout and
ofce comfort and interaction and distraction. These authors did not specically study
ABWs, which is, perhaps, why ICT support was not part of their frameworks. However, it is
an essential element of ABWs. Building on these references, the ABW component of the
conceptual model is split into ve main constructs as follows (Figure 1): ofce layout, ofce
comfort, ofce use, teleworking and ICT access.
Ofce layouts that do not t with user needs and behaviour may result in feelings of lack
of control and community, and thus higher levels of workplace stress (Vischer, 2007). Based
on a review of 24 studies, De Croon et al. (2005) conclude that there is much evidence that
working in open workplaces reduces the ofce workers psychological privacy and some
evidence that working in open workplaces and close distances between workstations
intensify cognitive workload and/or worsen interpersonal relations. They also found the
relationship between these two design aspects and performance to be inconsistent. So
potentially, ofce layout relates to all three dimensions of the BEC. In ABWs the variety of
workplaces may increase feelings of autonomy, which has a positive relationship with work
engagement (Maslach and Leiter, 2008). Haynes et al. (2017) even showed that the
availability of a variety of spaces had the greatest impact on productivity (the self-
evaluation strain).
Ofce comfort is usually related to ambient factors (Seppänen and Fisk, 2006) and
ergonomics (Kroemer and Kroemer, 2016). Indoor climate and lighting are often ranked
highest in the ofces impact on perceived health and performance (Bae et al., 2017). Kroemer
and Kroemer (2016) point out that ofce ergonomics can lower stress, increase personal
engagement and raise performance as well. Besides comfort, the ability to adjust these
factors to individual preferences may contribute to feelings of control and fairness (e.g. equal
treatment regardless of job rank) (Clements-Croome and Li, 1997) and as such may be
related to dimensions of the BECas well, following Maslach and Leiter (2008).
Ofce use regards both interaction and distraction and desk-sharing. Interaction and
distraction are highly interrelated. One persons interaction is another persons distraction
(Haynes and Price, 2004) and can decrease feelings of privacy. Both social and work
interactions may be linked to feelings of community, while distraction by interruptions,
feelings of crowding and noise and feelings of lack of control and privacy may be related to
all three dimensions of the BEC (Bakker et al., 2014;Haynes, 2007b). The ABW environment
adds additional relevant use-aspects, as workers have to share workspaces and are expected
to switch between different workspaces. The evidence of whether desk-sharing increases
overload is still inconsistent but provided by some studies according to De Croon et al.
(2005). Only 4% of workers switch workstations during the day (Hoendervanger et al.,2016).
Apparently, this ABW-rule is not perceived as a positive demand and might cause stress.
Additionally, it determines who sits by whom and could, thus, relate to the interpersonal
Teleworking may result in more autonomy where to work, and thus in less interaction
between staff members, which may reduce the possibility to obtain social support and
feedback. It also may indicate that work is never completed (Demerouti et al., 2014;Peters
and Van der Lippe, 2007). Teleworking is shown to create loneliness, irritability, worry and
guilt and stress (Mann and Holdsworth, 2003). Besides these potential links to the individual
and the interpersonal dimensions of the BEC, research has shown that telework intensity
has consequences for the efcacy dimension (Hoornweg et al.,2016).
Last, inappropriate ICT facilities, information overload, the pressure to respond quickly
to e-mails and social media and insufcient skills to cope with these issues may result in
perceived work overload (Rennecker and Derks, 2012;Demerouti et al.,2014). As a
consequence, a relationship with at least the individual dimension of the BEC can be
expected. ICT access has also been shown to relate to the productivity of workers
(Nurmilaakso, 2009). Intuitively, technology such as intranet and cloud computing could
relate to the interpersonal dimension as well, as people can exchange information this way.
Therefore, we pose:
H1. ABW characteristics have a direct effect on an employees position on the BEC.
Individual control variables
Not all individuals are equally likely to get a burnout. Therefore, various individual
characteristics are included in the model as control variables. Maslach et al. (2001) pointed
out that the level of burnout amongst younger employees is higher than amongst those over
30 or 40 years old. This suggests that workers are more at risk to burn out earlier in their
careers. Men score a little higher on the cynicism dimension of burnout, whereas women
score higher on the exhaustion dimension of burnout (Maslach et al.,2001), so gender
matters as well. Also, employees with higher levels of education and singles are more likely
to experience burnout (Maslach et al.,2001). With regard to personality, Schaufeli and
Enzmann (1998) refer to numerous studies that included one or more of the Big ve
personality characteristics. For example, people who score high on neuroticism are more
sensitive to stress (Albrecht, 2010) while extraversion and conscientiousness are directly
associated with a higher level of well-being (Parent-Lamarche and Marchand, 2019).
Besides personal characteristics, individual job-related aspects could be relevant as well.
Knowledge workers have to be productive in three different main activities, namely
concentrated work, formal interactions and informal interactions (De Been et al.,2016). It
might differ between workers how important each activity is, which could be relevant to the
interpersonal strain (interactions) and, perhaps, also to the other BEC dimensions. Also,
Maslach et al. (2001) mention that burnout is higher amongst people in lower job ranks, who
have little participation in decision making. Also, work experience acquired through on-the-
job-training has been shown to lead to greater productivity (Qui
nones et al., 1995), and thus
may affect the self-evaluation strain.
Therefore, we pose:
H2. Individual control variables affect an employees position on the BEC.
Situational variables
Bakker et al. (2014) found that stressful aspects of the work situation are even more
important predictors of burnout than personal control variables. Maslach and Leiter (1997)
identied six domains of situational work environment factors as follows: stress, control,
Burnout and
reward, community, fairness and values. TNO (2015) showed that job stress is mainly
caused by insufcient autonomy (44%) and excessive workload (38%). High job demands
and lack of control may result in job stress, which has been recognised as an early predictor
of burnout and as an impairment of physical health, psychological well-being and work
performance (Kahn and Byosiere, 1992). Reward refers to the power of reinforcements to
shape behaviour and stress (Leiter and Maslach, 2005). A high level of a perceived
community may reduce stress (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004), e.g. by social support from co-
workers and supervisors. Fairness emerged from the literature on equity and social justice.
Unfairness occurs when there is the inequity of workload or reward, when there is cheating
or when evaluations and promotions are handled inappropriately (Maslach et al., 2001). The
sixth domain Values picks up the cognitive-emotional power of job goals and
expectations (Leiter and Maslach, 2005). When a conict of values occurs at the job, workers
will nd themselves making a trade-off between the work they want to do and the work they
have to do (Maslach et al.,2001;Maslach and Leiter, 2008):
H3. Situational variables affect an employees position on the BEC.
Besides a direct relation between situational variables and the BEC, the ofce environment
is likely to relate to these situational variables as well, so they are included as mediators in
the conceptual model. For example, Van der Voordt (2004) warns for additional workload
due to desk sharing and switching, as workers lose time by nding available workspaces
and adjusting their settings to their own preferences. Then, teleworking could reduce social
support (community) and increase workload (Demerouti et al., 2014;Peters and Van der
Lippe, 2007). Oseland (2009) states that ofce design should provide workers with a feeling
of control through both the personal space and the way they are allowed to use the ofce.
Access to ICT and teleworking might also increase feelings of control. Reward not only
relates to nancial payment but also to a feeling of being appreciated. Supportive ofce
design and comfort might add to this feeling (Rothe et al., 2011). On the other hand, an ofce
design that does not t with user needs and behaviour may result in a lack of feelings of a
community (Vischer, 2007). Studies on activity-based ofces also refer to fairness and
values, for example, by mentioning that ABW is not considered as fair if not all levels in the
organisation give up their dedicated desks (Appel-Meulenbroek et al.,2015).
So last, we pose:
H4. ABW characteristics have an indirect effect on employees position on the BEC, via
the situational variables.
Research methods
Sampling and measuring
To test the conceptual model and hypotheses, quantitative data has been collected by means
of an online questionnaire. CRE managers, facility-managers and human resource managers
of 14 organisations with an ABW concept were asked to distribute the questionnaire to
knowledge workers within their organisation, between 10 July and 4 September 2018. In
total, 184 employeescompleted the full questionnaire with 85 questions and statements.
Regarding the ABW environment, respondents were asked to respond to a number of
statements, using a ve-point scale. The ofce layout is operationalised by workplace
variety, workplace availability, openness, the distance between workplaces and facilities.
The responses to eight statements (e.g. The variety of workspaces allows me to choose the
workspace that best ts the activityand In my opinion, the spatial design of the ofce
environment is optimal) range from (strongly) disagree till (strongly) agree. Ofce comfort
has been measured by 10 statements on ambient factors (e.g. air quality, ventilation,
personal control), ergonomic furniture (desks and chairs) and overall comfort, with
responses ranging from (very) uncomfortable till (very) comfortable. Ofce use has been
operationalised by the frequency of choosing a workplace that ts best with the activity,
leaving behind a clean desk, claiming a workplace by personalisation, interaction,
distraction, the experience of excessive noise and opportunities to isolate themselves from
colleagues, using 10 items (e.g. during work, I interact with colleagues on a social leveland
during work, I am easily distracted by colleagues). For teleworking two items were used
(I can work at homeand I can work between home and the ofceat any given time) and
for ICT three items (e.g. I can use cloud computing to store my data), both with answers
ranging from never till always.
The individual control variables age, gender, level of education and household
composition were measured by closed questions. Personality has been measured by the Big
Five Inventory (BFI-10) questionnaire (Rammstedt and John, 2007), job rank by marking one
out of six choices (e.g. trainee, board member, other) and work experience by indicating
years of deployment at the current employer. Activities, in particular communication and
concentration, were measured by their importance on a ve-point scale. The six situational
variables have been measured by 11 statements from the areas of work-life scale measure
(AWS) (Leiter and Maslach, 2003), e.g. I have too much work to doand I perceive my
social rewards (e.g. appreciation, respect) as being sufcient for the work I do.
For the employeesposition on the BEC, 15 statements (seven-point scale) were adopted
from the Utrecht Burnout Scale (UBOS, Brenninkmeijer and Van Yperen, 2003). The UBOS-
GS is very similar to the widely used MBI-GS that assesses the three BEC dimensions
(Maslach and Leiter, 2008). See Aussems (2019) for the full survey set-up.
Data analysis
Checks were conducted on sufcient sample size, multicollinearity and singularity, outliers,
normal distribution, linearity and homoscedasticity, to dene, which statistical analyses
would be most appropriate and what kind of data reduction could be applied before the main
analysis. Scale constructs were checked on internal consistency by Cronbachs alpha, which
showed to be sufciently high (>0.70) for most variables. Distraction conditions in the ofce
(close proximity) lowered Cronbachs alpha of the ofce layout construct from 0.81 to 0.71.
Because of its expected impact based on the many ofce noise studies, it was kept as a
separate proximityvariable. The ofce use items (
= 0.34) were entered into a factor
analysis (Principal Axis Factoring and Direct Oblimin with Kaiser normalisation) to reduce
the set of variables while assuming a latent construct of ofce use. This provided four
factors, labelled interaction, distraction, desk-switching and claiming, explaining 62.8% of
the total variance. The six situational variables were reduced by factor analysis as well due
to low Cronbachs alpha values (
= 0.634 (control), 0.540 (rewards) and 0.306 (community)
with single items for the other three variables). The factor analyses reduced the set of
variables to four factors, explaining 62.5% of the total variance. Recognition includes
nancial and social rewards and fairness. Overload and values group together. The control
contains all original control items, while appreciation combines the social support items
(from co-workers and from supervisors) with intrinsic rewards (pride). Table 1 shows the
nal variables that were used for further analyses. A path analysis was used as an extension
of multiple regression analysis to simultaneously analyse the direct and indirect effects of
ABWs on all three strains of the BEC and the relationships between the strains while
controlling for individual variables and placing the situational variables as mediators. A
Burnout and
major advantage is that this method can estimate direct and indirect effects simultaneously
and allows them to include several dependent variables. To select, which variables and
relations to include in the path analysis, rst bivariate correlation analyses were performed
for all possible relations in the model, to check whether the theoretical assumptions are
replicated in this sample. A minimum sample size for regression type analyses is N =
50 þ8k, in which k is the number of predictors or independent variables (Tabachnick and
Fidell, 2007). The variable with the highest amount of (15) predictors in the path model is the
self-evaluation strain and 50 þ8 * 15 = 170 still falls within the sample size of 184
Table 1.
Bivariate correlations
of workplace
characteristics and
individual and
situational variables
with BEC dimensions
Variables Individual strain Interpersonal strain Self-evaluation strain
Workplace characteristics
Ofce layout 0.100 0.036 0.060
Proximity 0.077 0.030 0.176*
Ofce comfort 0.023 0.135 0.144*
Ofce use
- Interaction 0.078 0.085 0.168*
- Distraction 0.282** 0.176*0.110
- Desk-switching 0.008 0.074 0.210**
- Claiming 0.086 0.103 0.0.37
Possibility to telework 0.015 0.020 0.006
ICT access 0.091 0.076 0.155*
Individual control variables
- Age 0.106 0.109 0.277**
- Gender Z = 0.354** Z = 0.131 Z = 0.767
- Education level 0.046 0.066 0.064
- Household composition 0.050 0.024 0.061
- Extraversion 0.121 0.221** 0.263**
- Agreeableness 0.087 0.212** 0.198**
- Conscientiousness 0.061 0.188*0.225**
- Neuroticism 0.202** 0.150*0.314**
- Openness 0.015 0.231** 0.158*
Work-related variables
- Job Rank Z = 0.218 Z = 0.036 Z = 0.133
- Work experience 0.038 0.052 0.339**
- Activities_concentration 0.039 0.112 0.083
- Activities_informal interaction 0.097 0.191** 0.080
- Activities_formal interaction 0.028 0.307** 0.010
Situational variables
Recognition 0.228** 0.297** 0.146*
Overload 0.365** 0.106 0.037
Control 0.130 0.196** 0.370**
Appreciation 0.054 0.367** 0.290**
Notes: ** = signicant at 0.01 level; * = signicant at 0.05 level. A test on interrelationships between the
three BEC dimensions showed two correlations to be signicant: between the individual and interpersonal
strain (0.419**) and between the self-evaluation and interpersonal strain (0.289**). The correlation between
individual strain and self-evaluation strain was not signicant. As Maslach and Leiter (1997) did assume
relations between all three strains, we stick to including all three relations in the path model, with arrows in
both directions
Sample characteristics
The sample contains a larger share of women (56.0%) compared to the whole Dutch work
population (46%). The respondents are between 20 and 66 years of age (M = 43.7; SD =
11.8), whereas the overall average age of Dutch workers is 42.1 years; the difference is not
signicant. The majority of respondents (77.7%) is highly educated, 20% is single, 76.6% is
living together/married without children (32.1%) or with children (44.6%) and 3.3% marked
other. The majority of respondents perceive themselves as outgoing and sociable (72.8%),
indicating extravert personalities. For agreeableness, most respondents see themselves as
generally having trust (91.8%). The majority of respondents identify themselves as doing a
thorough job (91.8%) and, thus being conscientious. For neuroticism, the majority of
respondents identify themselves as being relaxed and handling stressful situations well
(66.3%), rather than being nervous easily (6.5%). With respect to openness, the majority of
respondents identify themselves positively too. Work experience averages 13.1 years (SD =
11.4). Most respondents are regular employees (71.2%), with 20.7% being a manager/
supervisor. The importance of the three activities (concentration, formal and informal
communication) is very similar for all respondents as follows: the average is a little above 4
(= important) with standard deviations of approximately 0.7.
In general, the mean scores on the BEC traits were on the positive side of the seven-point
scale, so pointing towards an engaged sample with relatively low burnout symptoms. The
individual dimension scored a 6.13 average (SD = 0.74), the interpersonal dimension 6.36
(SD = 0.82) and the self-evaluation dimension 5.70 (SD = 0.713).
Bivariate correlation analyses
The ndings of the bivariate analyses (Table 1) indicate signicant relationships between
most ABW constructs and all situational variables with at least one of the BEC dimensions.
Only ofce layout, desk claiming and teleworking did not show any signicant direct
correlations. However, ofce layout and teleworking do show potential for an indirect
relation mediated by situational variables, as they correlated, respectively, with recognition
and with control and appreciation (Table 2). Again, desk claiming did not, and therefore is
left out of the path analysis, as there is also no existing proof in previous studies relating this
specic aspect of ofce use to any of the situational variables or the BEC.
The individual control variables age, gender and personality also showed to be
signicantly correlated with at least one of the BEC dimensions, whereas education level
Table 2.
Correlations between
characteristics and
situational variables
Workplace characteristics Recognition Overload Control Appreciation
Ofce layout 0.149* 0.071 0.103 0.037
Proximity 0.027 0.007 0.097 0.078
Ofce comfort 0.255** 0.090 0.127 0.233**
Ofce use
- Interaction 0.093 0.060 0.044 0.112
- Distraction 0.069 0.153* 0.100 0.038
- Desk-switching 0.107 0.056 0.143 0.060
- Claiming 0.089 0.030 0.091 0.116
Possibility to telework 0.114 0.122 0.205** 0.170*
ICT access 0.117 0.091 0.128 0.118
Notes: ** = signicant at 0.01 level; * = signicant at 0.05 level
Burnout and
and household composition did not. Regarding the ve work-related variables, work
experience and formal and informal interaction showed to be signicantly correlated, with,
respectively, the self-evaluation strain and the interpersonal strain.
Path analysis
The model to be tested, based on theory and bivariate analyses, is presented in Figure 2.
Figure 3 shows the relations that remained signicant in the path analysis, with the
standardised coefcient for each link. The R
is 0.20 for the individual strain, 0.25 for the
interpersonal strain and 0.31 for the self-evaluation strain. So, a maximum of almost a third
of the variation in the BEC dimension is explained by the independent variables. The ABW
constructs explain only a few per cent of the variation in the situational variables
(recognition R
= 0.07; overload R
= 0.02; control R
= 0.04; appreciation R
= 0.07). Three
ABW constructs showed signicant relations with a BEC dimension, namely distraction
(ofce use), Ofce comfort and teleworking. The interpersonal strain has (bidirectional) links
both with the individual (
= 0.31) and the self-evaluation strain (
= 0.12), but again the
relationship between the individual and the self-evaluation strain was not signicant.
Distraction has a direct negative relationship with the individual strain (
indicating that when distraction increases, exhaustion increases. More peculiar is the
indirect relationship through overload, where distraction decreases overload (
and increases energy (
= 0.22). Also, women score higher on individual strain (more
energy) than men (
Ofce comfort only has indirect relations, both through increasing feelings of recognition
= 0.23) and appreciation (
= 0.20), with increased involvement (the interpersonal strain,
= 0.18 and 0.17). Workers for who formal meetings are more important (
= 0.23) or who
have more open personalities (
= 0.15) also score higher on the interpersonal strain.
The possibility for teleworking relates to increased feelings of control (
= 0.21), which
relates to efcacy (the self-evaluation strain,
= 0.20), so again only an indirect relation.
Figure 2.
Model used for path
More conscientious (
= 0.17) and more agreeable (
= 0.04) personalities and workers with
more work experience (in years at this employer;
= 0.24) also score higher on efcacy,
while more neurotic persons score lower (
Discussion, implications and limitations
Impact of activity-based workplaces on employeesposition on the burnout-engagement
Hypothesis H1 (ABW characteristics have a direct effect on an employees position on the
BEC) can only be partially accepted for ofce use. Only one signicant, negative direct
relation came forward, between distraction and the individual strain (exhaustion-energy) of
the BEC. A lot of distractions can be frustrating, which costs energy on its own and people
have to work longer to get their work done by making up for a lost time. There is not much
research yet on how to deal with distractions. Most studies on acoustics and noise focus on
sound levels (Keränen and Hongisto, 2013) or noise effects on satisfaction (Kim and De Dear,
2013) but not on (mental) health of employees. With the trend towards increased open
ofces, this deserves further research into the effects of technologies such as sound masking
(Jahncke et al.,2016) and optimising coping behaviour. Contrary to previous studies on
productivity (Haynes, 2007b), distraction did not relate to the self-evaluation strain. As there
was no link between the individual and self-evaluation strain, there is also no indirect effect
of distraction on efcacy, which is unexpected. As many respondents in this sample rated
their efcacy very high, there might be a restriction of range in the dependent variable. All
the other ABW characteristics did not relate to the self-evaluation strain in the path model
either, where previous studies suggested a relationship with comfort (Bae et al.,2017) and
ICT access (Nurmilaakso, 2009).
That desk-switching supports peoplesefcacy is one of the basic assumptions of ABW,
but it has not been proven in studies and again is not conrmed here. Previous work suggests
that task-switching triggers overload (Demerouti et al.,2014), but for desk-switching
Figure 3.
Final model after
path analysis
Burnout and
(which is supposed to be based on switching tasks) this is not conrmed by our ndings.
Perhaps, for desk switching this is only the case when there are negativereasons (e.g.
distraction) causing the switch (Hoendervanger et al.,2016). Claiming the same desk by
personalising does not seem to support the efcacy or provide less exhaustion either.
Perhaps, those who claim desks, do this for different reasons than stress, for example, to
express status or to be able to use a preferred workplace every day.
Also, surprising is the lack of a relation between interaction and interpersonal strain
(involvement). Where the importance of formal meeting activities for ones work was related
to increased involvement in the model, actually having more social or work-related
interactions was not. As involvement denitions are generally based on communication
processes (Lopes et al., 2017), this seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, the actual
interactions might not have provided a positive experience to the employees. Clearly, further
research on ofce use is needed to fully understand ABW environments. It would also be
interesting to replicate this research amongst people with more extensive burnout
Hypothesis H4 (ABW characteristics have an indirect effect on employees position on
the BEC via the situational variables) can be accepted more strongly. First, where
distraction already had a direct effect, there is additionally a mediated effect through a
negative effect on overload. Remarkably, the data do not only suggest that an increase in
overload (I have too much work to do) increases feelings of energy but also that distraction
decreases perceived overload. A lack of (auditory) privacy is generally associated with
greater feelings of exhaustion (Bakker et al.,2014), but maybe there are also welcome forms
of distraction, which make people relax for a moment. A large part of the sample scored high
on the individual strain (more energy), so, perhaps, they get energy from having a lot of
work to do. However, the continuation of this situation might lead to burnout in the long run.
Clearly, distraction in the ofce deserves further research.
Second, perceived ofce comfort relates signicantly to both feelings of recognition and
appreciation. Like in earlier research (Maslach and Leiter, 2008), such feelings increase the
involvement of workers (interpersonal strain). One of the major dilemmas in designing ofce
comfort remains that what is optimal for one person or group may not be optimal for other
people (Bitner, 1992). There exist signicant individual differences in preferences (Wang
et al.,2018) and Budie et al. (2019) showed that those using the open spaces in ABWs a lot
nd comfort even more important.
Third, teleworking improved efcacy via increased control. While teleworking provides
some autonomy, and thus control, Hoornweg et al. (2016) showed that there might be a limit
to this effect, as the effect on productivity changed from positive to negative with a higher
telework intensity. Also, telecommuters experience more time pressure in thelong run, while
making longer work hours (Peters and Van der Lippe, 2007), although in this sample this did
not lead to more exhaustion. The increased perceived efcacy could also be caused by the
fact that the respondents found a distraction-free environment at home or a better work-life
The expected indirect relations between ofce layout and all BEC dimensions through
recognition were not conrmed in the path analysis. So, relations of ofce layout design with
the workload and interpersonal relations (De Croon et al.,2005) and control (Vischer, 2007)
could not be conrmed. In general, all layout items scored a mean between 3 and 4 on a ve-
point scale indicating that workers in the sample perceive a good t between their needs and
abilities and the layout of their ABW. Perhaps, there was too little variation in layout quality
to identify an effect. Another explanation might be that the high demands of an open ABW
environment (noise-causing exhaustion and less efcacy) are compensated by appropriate
resources (variety in spaces, facilities), as put forward in the Job-demands-resources model
by Bakker and Demerouti (2007). Further research should shed more light on whether and
how the ABW layout design affects burnout and engagement.
Burnout-engagement continuum and personal control variables
It was not completely unexpected that no relationships between the individual and self-
evaluation strain were found in the path analyses. Others (Lee and Ashforth, 1996) found
relatively low correlations of professional efcacy with both other dimensions as well. The
relationship between the individual and interpersonal strain was conrmed, which is in line
with the idea that these form the core of burnout (Green et al.,1991).
Hypothesis H2 (Individual control variables affect an employees position on the BEC)
and H3 (Situational variables affect an employees position on the BEC) are conrmed, but
less complete than expected. For example, Alarcon et al. (2009) found that neurotic workers
feel less energetic and experience more exhaustion, while in this study the neuroticism trait
only relates negatively to efcacy. Previous research (Langelaan et al., 2006) claims that
high neuroticism is the core antecedent of burnout, whereas people who score high on work
engagement are characterised by low neuroticism in combination with high extraversion.
The positive relation between openness and efcacy is also not conrmed, nor are previous
ndings of a relation between neuroticism and the interpersonal dimension (Schaufeli and
Enzmann, 1998). It is clear that personality plays a role, but further research with larger and
more diverse samples is necessary to gain more insight into how personality inuences the
BEC in an ABW context. Also, the ndings regarding the effect on gender oppose that of
Maslach et al. (2001), as men scored higher on exhaustion than women.
As expected, more experienced workers are more likely to see themselves as efcacious.
Maslach et al. (2001) argued that age is related to work experience, suggesting that the risk
of burnout is higher in an earlier phase of onescareer, but in this study, age was not related
to any of the BEC dimensions. Regarding the importance of activities, workers who consider
formal meetings more important show higher involvement. This does not apply to informal
meetings. Further research should identify why this might be the case.
Limitations of the study
The study of complex phenomena such as burnout and engagement would benet from
longitudinal research. Due to the cross-sectional design of our study, it is impossible to
derive causal relationships. Besides being a cross-sectional survey, this study was limited to
the perceived impact of the physical environment, workersactivities, individual
characteristics and work-related situational variables on burnout/engagement. The R
values suggest that additional variables exist that explain workersposition on the BEC
The sample only included Dutch respondents and was relatively small. Although the
current sample showed to be sufciently large to conduct an appropriate path analysis, the
limited size of the sample and a large number of inuencing variables allowed to identify
only relatively strong relationships. Not identifying relationships does not mean that they
do not exist, but probably they are not sufciently strong to be identied with the present
size of the sample. A larger sample might have resulted in the identication of more
relationships between the many independent variables and the burnout-engagement
dimensions. The sample also includes workers from many different organisations. However,
apart from being an ofcial organisation, no further information about these organisations
was available. Also, the ndings can only be an indication of the Dutch context in which the
data were gathered.
Burnout and
While the burnout-engagement dimensions have been measured by validated measures,
this does not (yet) apply to some of the independent variables. Additionally, using a more
extended questionnaire (e.g. all 29 statements derived from the AWS, rather than the
selection of 11 statements in this study) would be worthwhile to conduct more in-depth
analyses of the relationships between the physical workplace characteristics, control
variables and other potentially relevant variables, if the samplehad been bigger.
The current study is partly exploratory (data-driven decisions, which variables to
include in the path analysis) and partly theory-driven (testing hypotheses of
interrelationships between families of independent, mediating and control variables and the
BEC). When a more extended theory is available, follow-up research could focus on more
detailed hypotheses regarding single variables.
Besides larger samples, qualitative research using workshops with medical experts,
business managers, CRE and facilities managers, human resource managers and well-
informed employees and analyses of sick leave data should be used to further validate the
scales of the BEC and its relationship with ABW characteristics.
Practical implications
Especially ofce use requires more attention of workplace managers in practice when
implementing the ABW concept. CRE managers aiming at mentally healthy workplaces
should focus on offering a low distraction, comfortable environment. Workers should have
the opportunity (and the organisational culture, Babapour, 2019) to isolate themselves from
distraction when necessary, by providing various types of workplaces that support
concentration (e.g. cell-ofces, quiet areas, private spaces) and/or clear use-protocols in more
open environments. Furthermore, CRE managers are recommended to support teleworking
to a certain extent, to keep employees feeling in control but still connected to the
organisation and their colleagues. In all cases, individual preferences should be taken into
account as well.
Overload showed to be the strongest predictor of the individual (exhaustion-energy)
dimension of the BEC, the importance of formal interaction of the interpersonal (cynicism-
involvement) dimension and work experience of the self-evaluation (inefcacy-efcacy)
dimension. Because CRE is a supportive resource, it makes sense that work and individual
characteristics have a larger effect on employeesmental health than the CRE. However, the
standardised coefcients of the ABW constructs were of a similar size as those of the
individual and situational variables. So, although neglected in previous studies, the physical
work environment should clearly be included in future studies on burnout and engagement
in ABWs as well. An additional novelty of this paper is that several general assumptions of
ABW did not come forward in this analysis and clearly need more research to show whether
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Appel-Meulenbroek, R., Clippard, M. and Pfnür, A. (2018), The effectiveness of physical ofce
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Corresponding author
Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek can be contacted at:
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... Noise can be measured by using a decibel measurement unit. Human factor studies have identified that excessive and unexpected noises can affect work performance and cause emotional tension [38]. It can increase blood pressure, hinder sleep, and cause headaches and hypertension [39]. ...
... The background of the respondents' demography also shows that they regard it as important to have a peaceful working environment which is far from the noisy environment. This is consistent with the previous works done by several researchers [38], [39] They state that a weak acoustics system can affect one's attention and increase his or her psychological pressure. Additionally, the current office's interior scenario that is more innovative is equipped with sound-proof system and something similar [37]. ...
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The lack of comfort due to workplace environment impact could trim down job performance and organizational productivity. Literature reviews indicate that ergonomic workplace environment that is strongly associated with the job performance. Employees' perceptions to be examined by the organizations to ensure the excellent job performance. Thus, 295 officers were selected using proportionate stratified random sampling with two-section questionnaire. The data were analyzed using statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS) and analysis of a moment structure (AMOS) software. The research findings show that acoustic is the most crucial factor (0.928) followed by lighting (0.898), workstation design (0.846), working hours (0.670), and chair (0.563). Ventilation is still significant to the whole environment although scored the lowest coefficient value (0.385). These findings provide valuable information to organizations in their attempts to sustain the human resources so that they are always competitive and productive in facing the challenges of the environmental change.
... Age and gender were operationalized according to Snyder et al. (2018). For household composition, a slightly adapted question from the CBS WoON survey was used (CBS, 2020) and for job rank the scale from Appel-Meulenbroek et al. (2020). For personality, the BFI-10 by Rammstedt and John (2007) was applied. ...
Purpose This paper aims to study employee mental health in relation to workplace design and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) when working from home, which has received little attention. The trend toward hybrid working urges for more knowledge. Design/methodology/approach Through a mixed data collection method, this study analyzed potential relationships (between mental health, workplace design and IEQ) from information obtained through a cross-sectional survey, repeated point-in-time surveys and desk-based IEQ sensors at home. Data were collected in April 2020 during a national COVID-19 lockdown in The Netherlands amongst 36 subjects. They all worked full time from home in this period and together completed 321 point-in-time surveys. The three data sets were combined and analyzed using bivariate and path analysis. Findings Outcomes indicate that subjective and objective IEQ conditions, workplace suitability and distraction affect employee mental health in the home workplace in a similar way as in the office. Being satisfied with the noise level increases concentration, self-reported well-being and engagement. High sound pressure levels (>58 dB) increased tension or nervous feelings. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of the first to explore employee mental health in relation to simultaneously assessed (perceived and measured) multiple IEQ parameters in the home workplace.
... However, the authors relied on suggestions from the literature in environmental psychology that measures aesthetic appreciation of a place by asking the level of satisfaction [75]. Finally, our study did not consider other personality or situational variables that could have an impact on exhaustion (see [76,77]). ...
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Background: Recently, workers employed in vaccination points around the world have been subjected to very high workloads to counter the progress of the COVID-19 epidemic. This workload has a negative effect on their well-being. Environmental psychology studies have shown how the physical characteristics of the workplace environment can influence employees' well-being. Furthermore, studies in the psychology of art show how art can improve the health of individuals. Objectives: The aim of this research was to test a moderated mediation model to verify how appreciation of workplace aesthetics can impact the level of exhaustion of staff working in a vaccination center, the mediating role of positive and negative affects, and the moderating role of interest in art. Methods: Data were collected from a sample of 274 workers (physicians, nurses, reception, and administrative staff) working in the same vaccination center in Italy. Participants answered a self-report questionnaire during a rest break. We used a cross-sectional design. Results: The results show that appreciation of workplace aesthetics impacts employees' level of exhaustion. This relationship is mediated by positive and negative affects, and interest in art moderates the relationship between positive affects and exhaustion. Conclusions: These findings indicate the central role of workplace aesthetics in influencing healthcare workers' well-being, and how interest in art can reduce exhaustion levels. Practical implications of the results are discussed.
... Vega et al. [12] and Brunia et al. [13] reported that quiet zones should be alternated with more enclosed rooms that are dedicated to specific activities i.e., concentrated work or telephone calls to providing privacy. This might help to solve the issues of easy distraction and difficulty in concentrating, which causes individual strain and exhaustion [14]. Rolfö et al. [2], proposed that having unassigned workstations may contribute to improve the satisfaction rating on outdoor views, as it provides all employees the opportunity to sit near a window. ...
One of the potential positive aspects of spaces designed to support Activity-Based Working (ABW) concept is to allow people to choose to work from zones that suit their Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) preferences. The vast majority of studies reporting findings relevant to IEQ performance of ABW spaces rely on spot measurements and/or subjective surveys and as such it is difficult to map longitudinal actual utilisation patterns and IEQ performance. This study contributes to this topic by analyzing a longitudinal dataset of space utilisation of an ABW over a twelve-month period. Analysis aims to identify overlaps between space utilisation patterns and expected IEQ performance in order to understand which types of zones occupants seem to prefer to work from. Occupants’ demographics (age and gender) were also analyzed with respect to the use of space. Further, specific physical markers were investigated, namely proximity to window, air-conditioning outlets, and high-low noise locations. The impact of physical markers on workplace choice was classified and predicted during a day using a decision-tree diagram developed on the basis of the CHAID algorithm. Overall, workers tended to choose to work within the inner zones (after 11 am) during winter. Findings show that female workers moved away from air-conditioning outlets. Additionally, female workers worked from workstations situated in high and medium noise zones. Results illustrated the potential to use utilisation datasets to understand how workers move away or towards zones in response to expected IEQ performance - thermal comfort (cold/warm), acoustics (noisy/quiet), and access to the outdoor environment/view (window) proximity.
... Both the characteristics of virtual and psycho-social work environment have been observed (Hoendervanger et al., 2019;Babapour, 2019b). Several dimensions of well-being at work has been studied, too (Appel-Meulenbroek et al., 2020;Cordero et al., 2019). However, in general, de facto change in the perceptions of the level and quality of knowledge work performance drivers over the change has not been often studied. ...
Purpose Work environment change from the traditional cell- and open-space offices to activity-based work (ABW) generates many concerns among workforce and management. The purpose of this study is to observe impacts of ABW change on several knowledge work performance drivers and outputs. Design/methodology/approach A quasi-experimental design was applied to distinguish the impact of ABW on several dimensions of knowledge work performance in three governmental organizations. The empirical measures that were observed in the study were: perceptions of physical environment, virtual environment and social environment, individual ways of working, well-being at work and self-assessed productivity. Findings Well-being at work or productivity will not collapse because of ABW change. Most of the facets of self-assessed productivity and all of the well-being facets did not change because of the adoption of ABW. ABW change had a positive impact on group work effectiveness but negative effect on perceptions of the facilities as conducive for efficient working. ABW change had an enhancing effect on the routine of protecting one’s concentration from software-induced interruptions and decreasing effect on using mobile technologies to work during idle times and using technology to avoid unnecessary traveling. ABW change made telework more acceptable. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study was one the first studies following real-world change to ABW with quasi-experimental design. The difference-in-differences approach made it possible to isolate the causal impact of ABW change on the knowledge work performance drivers and outputs from other simultaneous changes taking place in the studied workplaces.
Purpose The aim of this study is to investigate whether activity-based workspaces (ABWs) are able to solve the privacy-communication trade-off known from fixed-desk offices. In fixed-desk offices, employees work in private or open-plan offices (or in combi-offices) with fixed workstations, which support either privacy or communication, respectively. However, both dimensions are essential to effective employee performance, which creates the dilemma known as the privacy-communication trade-off. In activity-based workspaces, flexible workstations and the availability of different spaces may solve this dilemma, but clear empirical evidence on the matter is unavailable. Design/methodology/approach To address this knowledge gap, the authors surveyed knowledge workers ( N = 363) at a medium-sized German company at three time points (T1–T3) over a one-year period during the company’s move from a fixed-desk combi-office (a combination of private and open-plan offices with fixed workplaces) to an ABW. Using a quantitative survey, the authors evaluated the employees’ perceived privacy and perceived communication in the old (T1) and the new work environments (T2 and T3). Findings The longitudinal study revealed a significant increase in employees’ perceived privacy and perceived communication in the ABW. These increases remained stable in the long term, which implies that ABWs have a lasting positive impact on employees. Originality/value As the privacy and communication dimensions were previously considered mutually exclusive in a single workplace, the results confirm that ABWs can balance privacy and communication, providing optimal conditions for enhanced employee performance.
The activity-based workplace (ABWs) provides a variety of spaces where work can be performed., Employees have no assigned seats but are expected to change their locations in the workplace to suit their activities. We conducted a systematic review of the literature evaluating this strategy, identifying 23 investigations between 2000 and 2020 in which there was a comparison between ABW and another workplace layout examining outcome measures that influence organizational productivity, and which met criteria for internal and external validity. We grouped the office layouts into cellular offices (1–2 occupants), small rooms (2–9 occupants), medium open plan (10–24 occupants), large open plan offices (>24 occupants), and ABWs. We categorised 78 dependent variables into nine categories: environmental satisfaction, social relations, personal space, cognitive performance, work output, job satisfaction and commitment, job characteristics, health and well-being, and physical activity, and evaluated each paper's results for the comparisons between ABW and the other layouts. Comparisons of ABWs to cellular offices favoured the cellular offices for all categories except physical activity, for which there were no data. For other office types, as the number of people in the comparison office increased, the greater the tendency for the comparison to favor ABWs. People want and need spaces to support attention and focus. Organizations looking to save real estate costs should weigh these savings against the overall effect of their design choices on organizational productivity.
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Purpose It is of great importance for organizations to identify what can influence employees’ well-being. The theoretical model that the authors propose combines psychological and social determinants of stress at work. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the contribution of work organization conditions, personality traits and their interaction to well-being in a sample of Canadian workers and companies. Design/methodology/approach Multilevel regression analyses were performed on a sample of 1,957 workers employed in 63 Quebec firms. Work organization conditions included (skill utilization, decision authority, psychological demands, physical demands, job insecurity, irregular schedule, number of working hours, social support from colleagues and supervisors, job promotion, and recognition) and personality traits included (self-esteem, locus of control and Big Five). Findings Work organization conditions (psychological demands, number of hours worked and job insecurity) and personality (self-esteem, locus of control, extraversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness) were significantly associated with well-being. The results of the analysis show that none of the personality traits included in this study interacts with work organization conditions to explain workers’ level of well-being. Originality/value This study provides support for the implementation of human resource management (HRM) practices in order to diminish the presence of stressful working conditions as well as for the eventual development of training programs designed to raise personality traits.
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When organizations adopt activity-based workplaces (ABWs), improved interaction is a common goal. Yet, few controlled longitudinal studies have been conducted on the effects of ABWs on interaction, social relations and work demands. The aim of this natural intervention study was to investigate the effects of moving into an ABW on satisfaction with communication, on social relations (i.e., social support and social community) and on work demands (i.e., quantitative demands, emotional demands and work pace) 3 months and 12 months after the relocation. The study included four offices which relocated into an ABW and one control office that did not. Questionnaire data from 408 respondents were analyzed with linear mixed models. Satisfaction with communication and the sense of belonging to a community had decreased 3 and 12 months after the relocation. Work pace was not affected while small, mostly short-term, negative effects on social support, quantitative demands and emotional demands were only observed among employees who had moved to ABWs from private offices. Differences between office sites were also observed. The results suggest that, to avoid negative outcomes, organizations moving to ABWs should focus on solving difficulties in locating colleagues at the office and on supporting particularly workers from private offices in adopting activity-based working.
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The overarching purpose of this thesis is to develop further knowledge of the consequences of relocating to Activity-based Flexible Offices (AFOs). As workspace design innovations, AFOs are increasingly implemented in organisations. AFOs comprise a variety of workspaces for employees to choose from depending on their preferences or activities. Workspaces in AFOs are shared, instead of every employee having their own desk. Research results are inconsistent regarding employee satisfaction with AFOs, and research into employees’ appropriation of AFOs and organisations’ processes of adopting AFOs is sparse. In response to these knowledge gaps, the thesis aims to explain why some AFOs work while others do not. The thesis builds on five case studies: (i) three cases with recently implemented AFOs, and (ii) two cases with AFOs implemented at least two years prior to the study. Data collection in all the case studies involved semi-structured interviews with employees and facility managers, observations and collection of secondary data such as process overviews, and layout drawings. For data collection and analysis, a theoretical framework was developed and used consisting of Activity Theory, artefact ecology, as well as theories of innovation adoption and appropriation. The findings show that individuals’ usage of AFOs varies considerably due to personal circumstances and work-related preconditions. Drawing on Activity Theory, three types of matches/mismatches were identified in employees’ activity systems: Employee ↔ AFO, Activity ↔ AFO, and Employee ↔ Activity. Furthermore, individuals’ usage preferences and non-preferences highlighted sub-optimal design features in the AFOs: (a) ambiguity and insufficient communication of rules; (b) undesirable ambient features; (c) exposure to stimuli; (d) difficult to interpret workspaces; and (e) dysfunctionality and insufficiency of the collective instruments. In summary, AFOs work in the absence of mismatches related to individuals’ personal and work-related preconditions and sub-optimal design features. The employees’ processes of appropriating AFOs involved first encounters, exploration, and stable phases, during which various types of adaptations occurred: (i) on an individual level: acquired insights, and behavioural, social and hedonic adaptations, as well as (ii) in the AFO solutions: rule-related, spatial and instrument adaptations. Furthermore, the AFO adoption process in organisations varied considerably. Procedural shortcomings during the planning process led to a limited understanding of AFO users and thus the sub-optimal AFO designs, while shortcomings during the routinising stage involved restrictions on making post-relocation improvements in AFOs and inadequate Occupational Health & Safety management. To conclude, AFOs work provided (i) they match individuals’ personal circumstances and work-related preconditions; (ii) they facilitate flexibility and shared use of spaces through well-designed rules, workspaces and instruments; (iii) individuals’ appropriation processes reach a stable phase where mismatches are resolved and fruitful symbiosis is achieved in their activity systems; and (iv) the organisations’ process of adopting AFOs is successful both during the planning and the post-relocation routinising stages, leading to a collective sense of ownership among employees.
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Employee satisfaction is pivotal for companies as it enhances perceived productivity and organizational performance. Office concepts and their workspaces can affect employee satisfaction. However, these effects are still ambiguous, particularly regarding the activity-based concept. Therefore, in this study employee satisfaction with the work environment is investigated from a holistic approach. The effects of both personal characteristics and workspaces used by the employee on work environment satisfaction are described and measured, including mediating effects of the perceived importance of employee needs. Data was collected using an online questionnaire among 327 employees of 13 knowledge-based organizations. Path analysis was used to determine the direct and indirect effects of personal variables, environmental variables and perceived importance of needs on satisfaction. It demonstrated that both personal and environmental variables affect satisfaction, and that a considerable number of these effects are indirect through the perceived importance of needs. In particular, the effects of used workspaces were extensive.
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Numerous claims have been made about the benefits of activity-based working (ABW) on workers’ health and work performance. Yet, it is unclear if these claims are proven. This systematic review aims to establish whether there is an evidence base for the effects of ABW on health, work performance and perceptions of the work environment. Eight databases were searched in September 2016. Three reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts and assessed the studies and extracted the data. Seventeen studies involving 36,039 participants were included. The study designs varied in rigorousness from qualitative studies to pre–post-trials and in sample size ranging from 12 to 11,799. This review found that ABW has positive merits in the areas of interaction, communication, control of time and space, and satisfaction with the workspace; however, it is unfavourable for concentration and privacy. For physical and mental health, the evidence is equivocal. ABW seems to be a promising concept that can be implemented and promoted based on some benefits for work performance and perceptions of the work environment when it is coupled with appropriate management support and organization. More high-quality research is needed to strengthen the evidence base further and establish its health effects.
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Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a mandatory transition to New Ways of Working (NWW) on employees’ job demands (i.e., mental demands, workload, and task ambiguity), job resources (i.e., autonomy, supervisor support, coworker support, and possibilities for development), and their levels of burnout and work engagement. Additionally, it was investigated whether the effects of the transition depended on employees’ personal resources (Psychological Capital—PsyCap). Design/methodology/approach We investigated an organization in transition. In three waves (one before and two after the transition), data were collected via online surveys among 126 employees of a large Dutch provider of financial services. Findings NWW were beneficial in reducing mental demands and workload and did not harm the relationships with supervisor and coworkers. However, autonomy and possibilities for professional development decreased. Burnout and work engagement remained stable over time. The effects of the transition did not depend on employees’ PsyCap. Implications NWW have received a very positive popular press. Scientific evidence for its beneficial and/or adverse effects on worker well-being can help organizations making an informed decision when considering NWW. Moreover, this can help to develop targeted interventions that alleviate the negative consequences (e.g., paying extra attention to professional development). Originality/value This is one of the first longitudinal studies in which employees were followed who transitioned to NWW. Building on the Job Demands-Resources model, this study provides a comprehensive picture of the effects of NWW.
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Winner of Outstanding paper 2018. Free access to paper Purpose Open-plan office environments are considered to offer workplace productivity benefits because of the opportunities that they create for interaction and knowledge exchange, but more recent research has highlighted noise, distraction and loss of privacy as significant productivity penalties with this office layout. This study aims to investigate if the purported productivity benefits of open plan outweigh the potential productivity penalties. Design/methodology/approach Previous research suggests that office environments are experienced differently according to the gender and age of the occupier across both open-plan and enclosed configurations. Empirical research undertaken with office occupiers in the Middle East (N = 220) led to evaluations to establish the impact different offices had on perceived productivity. Factor analysis was used to establish five underlying components of office productivity. The five factors are subsequently used as the basis for comparison between office occupiers based on age, gender and office type. Findings This research shows that benefits and penalties to workplace productivity are experienced equally across open-plan and enclosed office environments. The greatest impact on perceived workplace productivity however was availability of a variety of physical layouts, control over interaction and the “downtime” offered by social interaction points. Male occupiers and those from younger generations were also found to consider the office environment to have more of a negative impact on their perceived workplace productivity compared to female and older occupiers. Originality/value The originality of this paper is that it develops the concept of profiling office occupiers with the aim of better matching office provision. This paper aims to establish different occupier profiles based on age, gender and office type. Data analysis techniques such as factor analysis and t-test analysis identify the need for different spaces so that occupiers can choose the most appropriate space to best undertake a particular work task. In addition, it emphasises the value that occupiers place on “downtime” leading to the need for appropriate social space.
A typology of service organizations is presented and a conceptual framework is advanced for exploring the impact of physical surroundings on the behaviors of both customers and employees. The ability of the physical surroundings to facilitate achievement of organizational as well as marketing goals is explored. Literature from diverse disciplines provides theoretical grounding for the framework, which serves as a base for focused propositions. By examining the multiple strategic roles that physical surroundings can exert in service organizations, the author highlights key managerial and research implications.
Human individual differences widely and markedly affect thermal comfort and should be carefully considered in the design and operation of the built environment. This paper aims to list and examine the magnitude and significance of individual difference in the preferred/neutral/comfort temperature through reviewing previous climate chamber and field studies. Causal factors for individual differences are investigated, including sex, age and etc. There is no clear and consistent conclusions as to the significance and size of inter-group differences in thermal comfort (between females and males, or the young and the old). To address the issue of individual difference, a paradigm shift from centralized to personalized air condition is on the way with the following three steps: first, collecting individual physiological and psychological response; second, predict individual comfort with machine learning algorithms; and third, accommodating individual difference with Personalized Comfort Systems.
Purpose This study aims at understanding academic practice in the field of physical office environment research and providing recommendations for further enhancement of the field. It shows which effects of the physical office environment on employee outcomes are studied by which disciplines, and which methodologies are used by whom and on which variables. Existing gaps in research that are confirmed by these analyses are discussed and “assigned” to obvious, best suited combinations of future multi-disciplinary research projects to call for studies that would help practice in better decision-making. Design/methodology/approach After a systematic search and selection of studies, an exploratory analysis of 134 empirical studies from 50 different journals (and other sources) was performed. The selected studies were entered into a database with information on the empirical parameters of the study, the methodology and author information. From this database, cross-tables were built and tested with Canonical Correspondence analyses. Findings Results of the analyses showed that each discipline has its preferred topics and methods of research. In general, questionnaires are preferred over hard data from physical and physiological recordings. Still many important gaps exist in fully clarifying workplace effectiveness. This paper suggests which disciplines would be capable of taking up which challenges in future studies through interdisciplinary cooperation to further advance the field and corporate real estate management/FM in practice. Originality/value The Correspondence analyses not only confirmed important gaps for future research but also identified which disciplines would be best suited to take up these challenges.