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The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management Strategies on Well-Being and Productivity


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Principles of lean management encourage managers to exert tight control over office space and the people within it. Alternative, design-led approaches promote the value of offices that are enriched, particularly by plants and art. On the basis of a social identity perspective, we argue that both of these approaches may compromise organizational outcomes by disempowering workers and failing to give them input into the design of their office space. This hypothesis is tested in two experiments (ns = 112, 47). The first was conducted in an interior office in a psychology department, the second in a commercial city office. In 4 independent conditions we examine the impact of space management strategies in which the office is either (a) lean, (b) decorated by the experimenter (with plants and art), (c) self-decorated, or (d) self-decorated and then redecorated by the experimenter. We examine the impact of these conditions on organizational identification, well-being, and various forms of productivity (attention to detail, information processing, information management, and organizational citizenship). In both experiments, superior outcomes are observed when offices are decorated rather than lean. However, further improvements in well-being and productivity are observed when workers have input into office decoration. Moreover, these effects are attenuated if this input is overridden. Implications for theory and practice are discussed. In particular, findings point to the need to question assumptions about the merits of lean office space management that have been dominant throughout the last century.
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The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices:
An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management
Strategies on Well-Being and Productivity
Craig Knight and S. Alexander Haslam
University of Exeter
Principles of lean management encourage managers to exert tight control over office space and the people
within it. Alternative, design-led approaches promote the value of offices that are enriched, particularly
by plants and art. On the basis of a social identity perspective, we argue that both of these approaches
may compromise organizational outcomes by disempowering workers and failing to give them input into
the design of their office space. This hypothesis is tested in two experiments (ns112, 47). The first
was conducted in an interior office in a psychology department, the second in a commercial city office.
In 4 independent conditions we examine the impact of space management strategies in which the office
is either (a) lean, (b) decorated by the experimenter (with plants and art), (c) self-decorated, or (d)
self-decorated and then redecorated by the experimenter. We examine the impact of these conditions on
organizational identification, well-being, and various forms of productivity (attention to detail, informa-
tion processing, information management, and organizational citizenship). In both experiments, superior
outcomes are observed when offices are decorated rather than lean. However, further improvements in
well-being and productivity are observed when workers have input into office decoration. Moreover,
these effects are attenuated if this input is overridden. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
In particular, findings point to the need to question assumptions about the merits of lean office space
management that have been dominant throughout the last century.
Keywords: identity, space, office, productivity, well-being
Studies of psychological well-being at work were initiated at the
turn of the last century (e.g., Mayo, 1933; Mead, 1913; Myers,
1925; Viteles, 1923; Wells, 1912) and continue to this day (e.g.,
Hansson, Vingard, Arnetz, & Anderzen, 2008; Messer & White,
2006; Mills, Tomkins, & Schlangen, 2007). However, the man-
agement of modern office space is typically influenced far less by
psychologists than by architects, interior designers, facility man-
agers, corporate real estate agents, and popular management the-
orists (Cohen, 2007; Stegmeier, 2008). Here the emphasis is gen-
erally on corporate return rather than psychological welfare (Bain
& Taylor, 2000; Handy, 1990). Indeed it has been observed that
when it comes to office management more generally, psycholog-
ical factors tend to be considered only as an adjunct to business
interests rather than exerting any influence over them (Furnham,
1990; Peters & Waterman, 2004; Statt, 2004).
In this paper we report research that explores some of the key
concepts at the heart of workspace management. In this, we draw
on insights from the social identity approach to organizational life,
as previously applied to the study of office space (e.g., Ashforth &
Mael, 1989; Baldry, Bain, & Taylor, 1998; Haslam, 2004; Knight
& Haslam, in press; Millward, Haslam, & Postmes, 2007; Postmes,
Tanis, & de Wit, 2001). The key issues that we investigated are
whether empowerment within office space impacts on (a) well-
being (in particular, feelings of psychological comfort, organiza-
tional identification, physical comfort, and job satisfaction) and (b)
The Lean Approach: The Case for Managerial
Control of Office Space
Key recommendations of the Taylorist approach to office space
management (e.g., Pruijt, 2003; Tapping & Dunn, 2006) include
(a) the removal from the workspace of everything except the
materials required to do the job at hand, (b) tight managerial
control of the workspace, and (c) standardization of managerial
practice and workspace design (Boyer, 2003; Duffy, 1997; C.
Harris & Harris, 2006). These ideas have been particularly influ-
ential in work that has promoted the lean office as the key to
efficiency and productivity (Hirano, 1996; Hobson, 2006; Louis,
2007; Tapping & Shuker, 2002; Zalesny & Farace, 1987). This
approach is exemplified by Bibby (1996) in his comparison of two
adjacent offices in a modern bank:
The contrast between the old and new in office life is currently well
reflected here. Part of one floor is temporarily being occupied by staff
from the [old] operation: here there is the usual clutter of office
paperwork to be seen, the pinned-up postcards and personal photo-
Craig Knight and S. Alexander Haslam, School of Psychology, The
University of Exeter.
This research was supported by a CASE award from the Economic and
Social Research Council (PTA–33–2005– 00021). This award was cospon-
sored by Ambius (a division of Rentokil Initial) and Haworth U.K. (a
division of Haworth, Inc.).
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alex
Haslam, School of Psychology, The University of Exeter, Perry Road,
Exeter, EX4 4QG England. E-mail:
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied © 2010 American Psychological Association
2010, Vol. 16, No. 2, 158–172 1076-898X/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0019292
graphs beside the desks. By contrast, the desks for [new] staff only a
few feet away are spick-and-span, bare of all paper and, in line with
company policy, free of any personal belongings. (para. 10)
The Taylorist literature sees lean, open space as efficient for a
number of reasons. In the first instance, large, uncluttered space
can accommodate more people and so lends itself to economies of
scale (Durmusoglu & Kulak, 2008; Kelliher & Anderson, 2008).
Desks (undecorated or personalized) can also easily be reconfig-
ured for use by other workers (Hobson, 2006; Thompson, 2000).
As a result, space occupancy can be centrally managed with
minimal “disruptive” interference from workers (Keyte & Locher,
2004; Titman, 1991). Indeed, many businesses now adopt a clean
or lean office policy because they have more employees than they
have spaces at which they can work. These lean desks are either
taken on a first-come-first-served basis (hot desking) or can be
booked in advance (hotelling; Millward et al., 2007; Stegmeier,
2008). In the lean office, employee involvement in the running of
the working space is purposefully de-emphasized (Wood & Wall,
2007; Zeisel, 2006). Low-status workers follow the system
planned for them by management (George, Maxey, Rowlands, &
Upton, 2004; Skinner, 2005), performing deskilled, repetitive tasks
(J. A. H. Becker & O’Hair, 2007), reflecting Taylor’s injunction
that “all possible brainwork should be removed from the shop and
centered in the planning or laying out department” (Braverman,
1974, p. 447).
These low autonomy environments echo the demand— control
model (Karasek, 1979), which argues that a combination of low-
decision latitudes and high pressure job roles (e.g., as found in a
classic telesales environment; Baldry et al., 1998), lead not just to
psychologically uncomfortable working conditions and depression
(Seligman, 1975; Sundbom, 1971), but also to greater incidence of
cardio-vascular disease. Indeed since the early 1960s, research has
pointed to the negative association between social class and cor-
onary heart disease (Theorell & Karasek, 1996), despite the per-
sistent belief that those at the top of the tree are under the most
pressure (Martin, 1997; Peters, 1989).
The methodology based on low-worker autonomy has proved
attractive to businesses since Taylor and his contemporaries began
their work in the 1880s (Becker & Steele, 1995; Kanigel, 1999).
Yet despite the enormous body of literature spawned (e.g., Bibby,
1996; Brill, Margulis, Konar, & BOSTI, 1984; George et al., 2004;
Hirano, 1996; Hobson, 2006; Hyer & Wemmerlov, 2002; Louis,
2007; Pruijt, 2003) there is a surprising lack of empirical evidence
to support the claims for greater efficiency. There would appear to
be two main reasons for this oversight. First, the assumption that
Taylorist methodology “just works” (Pyzdek, 2003, p. 664) and,
second, the heavy reliance (particularly in fields of design, archi-
tecture, and space management) on evidence gleaned from case
studies (e.g., Louis, 2007; Tapping & Shuker, 2002; Taylor, 1911).
The Green Approach: The Case for Design-Led
Office Space
Space planning and design is frequently seen as an expression of
managerial intent (Marmot & Ely, 2000), in which a building’s
aesthetics are seen as an opportunity to reflect and project a
particular corporate ethos and image (Myerson & Ross, 2003; see
also Cornelissen, Haslam, & Balmer, 2007). We have seen how
this space is often deliberately stark (or lean; C. Harris & Harris,
2006; Hobson, 2006), but some organizations choose to avoid
Taylorist prescriptions for a lean office and instead enrich the
workspace by investing in “environmental comfort” (Vischer,
2005, p. 102). This strategy is typically informed by a belief that
such enrichment may promote health. In particular, aesthetically
uplifting art—particularly images from nature—is believed to re-
duce stress and anger in a working environment (Kweon, Ulrich,
Walker, & Tassinary, 2008). The presence of living plants in a
workspace is also thought to have the additional benefit of clean-
ing, or “conditioning” the air, thereby helping workers feel happier
and healthier (Bringslimark, Hartig, & Patil, 2007; Dravigne,
Waliczek, Lineberger, & Zajicek, 2008).
In line with these ideas, psychological literature has suggested
that relative to lean offices, enriched offices are psychologically
advantageous (Elsbach, 2003; Handy, 1990; Haslam & Knight,
2006; Myerson, 2007; Thompson, 2000; Vischer, 2005; Zelinsky,
2006). More specifically, it leads to the hypothesis that enriching
workers’ office space with pictures and plants is likely to increase
organizational identification (Hypothesis 1a; H1a), well-being
(specifically, sense of psychological comfort, job satisfaction, and
physical comfort; H2b), and productivity (H2c). In line with pre-
vious work (see Knight & Haslam, in press), we would also
anticipate that (as with H2 and H3 below) organizational identifi-
cation might also mediate the relationship between the experimen-
tal condition and other dependent variables.
The Social Identity Approach to Space Use
Yet despite being more sensitive to employees’ needs than lean
approaches, it remains true that even the most benign, design-
focused space management strategies still tend to assume that it is
management’s prerogative to retain control of the workspace
(Laing, Duffy, Jaunzens, & Willis, 1998; Peters & Waterman,
2004). This assumption is one that is increasingly being called into
question—not least by designers themselves (Commission for Ar-
chitecture and the Built Environment, 2004; Froggett, 2001;
Zeisel, 2006). In particular, some psychologists have argued that
employees should be encouraged to decorate their immediate
space with meaningful artifacts to project their identity onto their
own environment and to give some sense of permanency, control,
and privacy (Baldry, 1997; Hall, 1968; Vischer, 2005). It has been
noted that approximately 70% of American workers personalize
their workspaces, but that managers and employees with enclosed
offices decorate more than others (Wells & Thelen, 2002). Where
open-plan offices are common, personalization of low-status work-
ing space is both infrequent and discouraged (Laing et al., 1998;
Tapping & Shuker, 2002). Accordingly, it would seem that the
decorative style of one’s working space is primarily predicted by
status (Elsbach & Bechky, 2007; Wells & Thelen, 2002).
At a group level it is argued that collectively, teams should be
free to express their own identity within their workspace, differ-
entiating themselves from other groups without necessarily com-
promising identification with the organization as a whole (Abrams,
Ando, & Hinkle, 1998; Peters & Waterman, 2004). In particular,
this recommendation is informed by a social identity approach to
organizational life (after Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, Hogg,
Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987; Turner, Oakes, Haslam, &
McGarty, 1994), which suggests that employee recognition and
involvement have the capacity to increase motivation and engage-
ment by increasing organizational identification (i.e., individuals’
willingness to define themselves as members of a particular orga-
nizational unit; Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Haslam, Postmes, &
Ellemers, 2003; Tyler & Blader, 2000). In line with this view,
previous research has shown that higher levels of organizational
identification are associated with an increased sense of job satis-
faction (Kreiner & Ashforth, 2004; van Dick, 2004) and also with
enhanced group performance (Worchel, Rothgerber, Day, Hart, &
Butemeyer, 1998). Along these lines, a social identity approach to
space management suggests that managers who involve employees
in decision making are also likely to build a sense of shared
identity that enhances the motivation and commitment of junior
colleagues (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Cornelissen et al., 2007;
Ellemers, De Gilder, & Haslam, 2004). This view is also supported
by Riketta’s (2004) observation of a strong correlation between
shared organizational identification and employees’ willingness to
engage in behavior that is beneficial to both the organization and
job involvement (see also Organ, 1988; van Knippenberg, 2000).
Where decision making is not shared, management is likely to
foster less intrinsic motivation and compliance may be contingent on
higher levels of control and surveillance (Ellemers, van Rijswijk,
Bruins, & de Gilder, 1998; McCabe & Black, 1997; Turner, 1991).
This in turn may lead to lower morale (Ellemers et al., 2004;
Oldham, Hackman, & Pearce, 1976), less cooperative behavior
(Baldry et al., 1998; Organ, 1988; Paille, 2008; Tyler & Blader,
2000) and lower levels of productivity (Vischer, 2005). In this
way, it may also compromise a company’s bottom line (Ellemers
et al., 2004; Hackman & Oldham, 1980; Lawler, 1986). A potential
exception to this rule was highlighted by Ullrich, Christ, and van
Dick (2009) who found that having a leader who is representative
of the group can offset the effects of group members’ lack of
voice—particularly if those members identify highly with the
organizational unit in question. However, these researchers also
found that when leaders were not representative of group mem-
bers, lack of voice was again associated with negative organiza-
tional outcomes.
On the basis of these approaches, we therefore hypothesize that
empowering workers to manage and have input into the design of
their own workspace—thereby allowing them to projecting their
own identity onto it—will enhance organizational identification
(H2a), well-being (H2b), and productivity (H2c).
Reestablishing Managerial Control
Historically, management has not empowered low-status work-
ers (Hobsbawm, 1969; McCabe & Black, 1997). Indeed, the man-
agement literature generally counsels that managers should assert
(or reassert) control of the workspace (Pruijt, 2003; Taylor, 1911).
Giving autonomy to workers, only to remove it because manage-
ment prefers its own options to those chosen by workers is seen by
some literature as a legitimate option (Pruijt, 2003; Tapping &
Shuker, 2002). However, the social identity approach outlined
above would suggest that reintroducing managerial control into
areas where workers are used to more autonomous conditions is
likely to compromise organizational identification and thereby
undermine productivity and well-being (Peters, 1989; Peters &
Waterman, 2004). Along these lines, disempowerment within the
workspace (Frederickson, 1989; George et al., 2004; Titman,
1991) has been found to engender a sense of alienation and
discomfort (Baldry et al., 1998; Handy, 1990) and to reduce job
satisfaction (Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Cohen, 2007). Meanwhile,
research in both environmental design and psychology points to a
link between a reduction in workplace autonomy and greater levels
of stress-related complaint (Bringslimark et al., 2007; Danielsson
& Bodin (2008); Scheepers & Ellemers, 2005). Similarly, a meta-
analysis by Humphrey, Nahrgang, and Morgeson (2007) suggests
that an integrated approach that accounts for social needs at work
increases motivation and satisfaction. On the basis of these argu-
ments (Keyte & Locher, 2004; Louis, 2007; Pruijt, 2003; Wood &
Wall, 2007), we therefore predict that disempowering workers by
overriding their input into workspace design will compromise
organizational identification (H3a), well-being (H3b), and produc-
tivity (H3c) relative to an enriched or an empowered office envi-
The Present Research
To test the above hypotheses we conducted two experiments in
which space management was manipulated across four indepen-
dent conditions. In these, the lean condition is informed by a
neo-Taylorist perspective, in which minimalist office space is
intended to focus employees’ attention solely on the work at hand
(in particular through the imposition of a clean desk policy; Bibby,
1996; Fredrickson, 1989; George et al., 2004). The second, en-
riched condition, instantiates ideas from the design literature in
which workers fulfill their job function in an office that incorpo-
rates art and plants, but where they have no input into their
deployment (e.g., Duffy, 1997; Greenhalgh, 2002; Myerson,
2007). A third empowered condition is informed by social identity
principles and allows participants to design their own office envi-
ronment using a selection of the same art and plants as in the
enriched condition but thereby allowing them to realize something
of their own identity within their working space (De Croon,
Sluiter, Kuijer, & Frings-Dresen, 2005; Elsbach, 2003; Elsbach &
Bechky, 2007). Finally, in a disempowered space, participants’
workspace design is overridden by the experimenter, so that an
initial sense of autonomy within the workspace is taken away
(B. E. Becker & Huselid, 1998; Wood & Wall, 2007).
Experiment 1
In our first experiment, participants were drawn from a wide
cross-section of society and were recruited to take part in a study
that was conducted in a university psychology department. Here
participants were randomly assigned to one of the four experimen-
tal conditions described above to gauge the impact of various
space management strategies on organizational identification,
well-being, and productivity with reference to our three main
Participants and design. There were 112 people (40 men, 72
women) ranging in age from 18 to 78 years (M37.55, SD
15.05) who took part in the study. Of the sample, 31% described
themselves as students, 61% as being in paid employment, and 8%
as retired. Potential participants were recruited from a range of
sources, but most were drawn from a panel of members of the
general community who had indicated a willingness to participate
in psychological research. Participation was voluntary and unpaid,
although where appropriate, traveling expenses were reimbursed.
Individual participants were randomly assigned to one of four
conditions (lean, enriched, empowered, or disempowered). The
main dependent variables were psychological comfort, organiza-
tional identification, job satisfaction, physical comfort, and pro-
Materials and procedure. The laboratory “office” was a small
interior office in a psychology department, measuring 3.5 m 2m.
The office had no windows or natural light. Participants arrived
individually and it was explained to them that they would take part
in an experiment examining performance on analytical, process-
ing, and intellectual tasks. Participants gave their informed consent
and confidentiality and anonymity were assured.
At every trial, the experimenter (Craig Knight) explained that he
needed to confirm a room booking with a secretary, thus leaving
the participant alone in the office space for 5 min to take in the
ambient environment. The office contained a rectangular desk
(1,600 mm 800 mm) and a comfortable office chair on castors.
The room was lit by diffused, overhead fluorescent tubes, the floor
was carpeted and an air conditioning system kept the room at a
constant temperature of 21 °C.
In the lean condition, no further additions to the room were
made. In the enriched condition, participants were shown into a
space where six potted plants (each approximately 350 mm high)
had already been placed toward the edge of the desk surface, so as
not to impinge on the participants’ working area. Six pictures (800
mm 800 mm) hung around the walls. The pictures were all
photographs of plants enlarged onto canvas.
In the empowered condition, participants entered an office
where the pictures and plants were placed randomly around the
room. They were told that they could decorate the space to their
taste using as many, or as few, of the plants and pictures provided
as they wished. They could therefore work in a lean or very
enriched space or at a point anywhere along that continuum. The
disempowered condition involved the same initial procedure as the
empowered condition. However, when the experimenter reentered
the office, he looked at the chosen decorations, briefly thanked the
participant and then completely rearranged the pictures and
plants—thereby overriding the participant’s choices. If challenged,
participants were told that their designs were not in line with those
required by the experiment. No further information was given until
the final debrief.
Card-sorting task. Once the experimenter returned to the of-
fice (or as soon as he had rearranged the pictures and plants in the
disempowered condition), he asked the participant to perform a
card-sorting task. Three packs of playing cards had been shuffled
together and the participant was required to sort them back into the
three constituent packs and to sort each pack into its four suits
(hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades). These suits then had to be
ordered from ace to king and placed in discreet piles, leaving 12
piles altogether. The key performance measures were the time
taken to complete this task and the number of errors made.
Vigilance task. After this, participants performed a vigilance
task. For this purpose they were given an A4 photocopy of the
same magazine article and asked to cross out and count all the
lower case letters “b” that were on the page. The time taken to
complete the task was measured as well as the number of errors
(missed “b”s).
In both cases the participants were told that they needed to
perform the tasks as quickly and as accurately as possible.
Questionnaire. After they had finished both tasks, participants
completed a 74-item questionnaire, in which items measuring
different constructs were presented on five different pages. Most of
these required a response on a 7-point scale ranging from 1
(completely disagree)to7(completely agree). The penultimate
page obtained participants’ demographic information. The first
items constituted manipulation checks in which participants were
asked to consider the managerial control of space (Tapping &
Shuker, 2002; Taylor, 1911). There were three, 3-item scales that
examined (a) involvement (␣⫽.87; e.g., “I felt engaged in what
I was doing in the office”; after Lodahl & Kejner, 1965); (b)
autonomy (␣⫽.82; e.g., “During this experiment I had control
over my environment”; after Breaugh, 1989) and (c) quality of
workspace (␣⫽.87; e.g., “This was a pleasant room in which to
work”; after Ferguson & Weisman, 1986).
The scales that followed were all based on previous studies of
space management and organizational identification at work
(Knight & Haslam, in press). Psychological comfort was measured
using a 5-item scale (␣⫽.87; e.g., “I felt at ease during the
experiment”; after Vischer, 2005). Organizational identification
was measured by three items that assessed participants’ identifi-
cation with the university in which the study was conducted (␣⫽
.70; e.g., “I identify with the university”; after Doosje, Ellemers, &
Spears, 1995). Employees’ positive experience of work was as-
sessed using two scales (a) job satisfaction (5 items; ␣⫽.68; e.g.,
“I enjoyed the “finding the letters” task”; after Haslam, O’Brien,
Jetten, Vormedal, & Penna., 2005) and (b) physical comfort (5
items; ␣⫽.75; e.g., “I felt too hot in the room”; after Spector et
al., 2005). After completing the questionnaire, participants were
debriefed and thanked for their participation.
Analytic strategy. Questionnaire and performance data were
analyzed by means of analysis of variance (ANOVA) with office
condition (lean, enriched, empowered, disempowered) as a
between-participants factor. Interitem correlations are shown in
Table 1; means and effect sizes (
) are presented in Tables 2 and 3.
Effect sizes indicate how much of the variance in the DV (depen-
dent variable) can be accounted for by each IV (independent
variable). Here an eta-square of .07 is considered moderate, .14
large (Sheshkin, 2004).
Manipulation checks. ANOVAs revealed effects for in-
volvement, autonomy and quality of workspace, Fs(3, 108)
44.92, 38.21, 20.23, respectively, all ps.001,
s.56, .51,
.36, respectively. Orthogonal planned contrasts showed that (a)
participants in the lean condition felt less involved, less auton-
omous, and thought they were in a poorer quality space than
participants in other conditions; (b) that participants in the
enriched office felt less involved and less autonomous than
participants in the empowered condition; and (c) that partici-
pants in the disempowered condition felt less involved, less
autonomous, and thought they were in a poorer quality space
than participants in the enriched and empowered conditions.
Relevant statistics are presented in Table 2.
Organizational identification. Analysis revealed a main effect
for organizational identification, F(3, 108) 2.87, p.04,
However, orthogonal contrasts only provided support for H3a in
showing that participants in the disempowered condition identified
less with the organization than participants in enriched and empow-
ered conditions. Relevant statistics are presented in Table 2.
Well-being. Analysis revealed effects for psychological comfort,
job satisfaction, and physical comfort, Fs(3, 108) 21.15, 5.55,
10.03, respectively, ps.001, .001, .001, respectively,
.13, .22, respectively. Consistent with H1b, orthogonal contrasts
showed that participants in the lean condition felt less psychologically
comfortable, reported less job satisfaction, and expressed lower feel-
ings of physical comfort than participants in other conditions. Con-
sistent with H2b, orthogonal contrasts showed that participants in the
empowered condition felt more psychologically comfortable and re-
ported greater job satisfaction than participants in the enriched con-
dition. Consistent with H3b, orthogonal contrasts showed that partic-
ipants in the disempowered condition felt less psychologically
comfortable and reported lower feelings of physical comfort than
participants in the enriched and empowered conditions. Again, rele-
vant statistics are presented in Table 2.
Productivity. Analysis revealed effects for time taken to com-
plete the card-sorting and the vigilance tasks, Fs(3, 108) 10.07,
4.44, respectively, both ps.01,
s.22, .11, respectively.
However, there were no effects for the number of errors made on
either task, Fs(3, 108) 1.67, 0.91, ps.18, .44,
s.04, .02,
respectively. Consistent with H1c, orthogonal contrasts showed that
participants in the lean condition took longer to complete both timed
tasks than participants in other conditions. Consistent with H2c,
orthogonal contrasts showed that participants in the empowered con-
dition took less time to complete the card-sorting task than partici-
pants in the enriched condition. Consistent with H3c, orthogonal
contrasts showed that participants in the disempowered condition took
more time to complete the vigilance task than those in enriched and
empowered conditions. Relevant statistics are presented in Table 3.
This experiment provided support for our three core hypotheses.
Consistent with H1, relative to the lean condition, participants in
Table 1
Experiment 1: Bivariate Correlations
Dependent variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Involvement — .16 .65
.08 .41
2. Autonomy .01 .02 .12 .06 .07
3. Quality of workspace .75
.04 .39
4. Psychological comfort .14 .40
5. Organizational identification .30
6. Job satisfaction .35
7. Physical comfort
Table 2
Experiment 1: Scale Properties, Means, and Effects for Measures of Participants’ Subjective Experience
Dependent variable
Condition (n112) Effects Contrasts (tvalues)
Lean Enriched Empowered Disempowered F(3, 108)
Effect size
LvR, P,
D, H1
RvP, H2
DvR, P, H3
2.56 3.21 5.77 3.18 44.92
.56 6.08
SD 1.06 1.34 0.91 1.15
2.90 3.77 5.93 3.95 38.21
.51 6.90
SD 1.20 1.31 0.85 0.96
Quality of workspace
3.32 5.39 5.49 4.57 20.23
.36 7.10
0.32 3.18
SD 1.12 1.09 1.02 1.06
Psychological comfort
4.01 4.74 5.72 4.24 21.15
.37 4.64
SD 1.11 0.99 1.02 1.06
Organizational identification
4.60 5.25 4.64 4.33 2.87
.07 0.56 1.88 2.17
SD 1.19 1.13 1.14 1.37
Job satisfaction
4.82 5.26 5.71 5.31 5.55
.13 3.39
SD 0.82 0.93 0.78 0.74
Physical comfort
4.56 5.49 5.74 4.59 10.03
.22 3.19
0.92 4.37
SD 1.29 0.88 0.96 0.90
Note. Llean; R enriched; P empowered; Ddisempowered; H1 Hypothesis 1, (L R, P, D); H2 Hypothesis 2, (D R); H3 Hypothesis
3, (D R, P, H).
Means relate to 7-point scales (1 [completely disagree]–7 [completely agree]).
Contrast related to relevant hypotheses.
enriched office space reported enhanced feelings of organizational
identification and well-being, in line with previous claims made in
the design literature (Elsbach & Beckhy, 2007; Zelinsky, 2006). It
also led to the tasks being performed quicker, with no decrement
in accuracy.
When participants were empowered to decorate their own work-
ing space, this led to further improvements in participants’ per-
ceptions of their working conditions. Consistent with H2, empow-
erment within the office space improved feelings of well-being
(Faller, 2002; Haslam, Eggins, & Reynolds, 2003; Postmes et al.,
2001; van Dick, Ullrich, & Tissington, 2006). Tasks were also
completed more quickly but, more important, without any accom-
panying rise in errors. However, once this feeling of empowerment
was overridden by the experimenters (i.e., in the disempowered
condition), as predicted by H3, feelings of organizational identi-
fication and well-being fell relative to those of participants in both
the enriched and the empowered conditions. Disempowerment also
led participants to take longer to complete the two tasks (Peters,
Despite the support that it provides for our hypotheses, this first
study also has some significant limitations. First, our sample
represented a fairly wide cross-section of the population who had
not necessarily experienced office work themselves. Second, the
experiment took place in a university setting, whereas (for obvious
reasons) the majority of previous design studies have been based in
the workspace (e.g., Brill et al., 1984; Dravigne, Waliczek,
Lineberger & Zajicek, 2008; Gensler, 2005; Gorjup, Valverde, &
Ryan, 2008; Louis, 2007).
Third, although support for our hypotheses was generally
strong, it was noticeably weaker on the measure of organizational
identification. Indeed, the fact that there was no support for H1a or
H2b meant that there could be no evidence of organizational
identification mediating the relationship between the way space
was managed and participants’ well-being and productivity (as
found in the previous survey research; Knight & Haslam, in press).
In part, this may reflect the fact that identification was here
operationalized by asking participants to express their level of
identification with an organizational entity (the university), that
was irrelevant both to their everyday lives and to this study. More
relevant, then, was their identification with those who conducted
the study itself. However, this was something we failed to assess.
Another concern was that the card-sorting task could be seen as
unrepresentative of tasks typically performed in an office environ-
ment (Anastasi, 1988). Finally, this study did not include specific
measures of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB; Organ,
1988) that might have allowed us to examine issues of workspace
motivation and consideration. Along these lines, OCB is seen as a
key indicator of relevant outcomes at the organizational level
because it measures “behavior that is discretionary, not directly or
explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and in the
aggregate promotes the efficient and effective functioning of the
organization” and so would seem to be particularly important to
address in this context (Organ, 1988, p. 4; see also Baker, Hunt, &
Andrews, 2006; Messer & White, 2006; Tyler & Blader, 2000).
Experiment 2
Experiment 1 provided evidence that participants performed and
felt better having been involved in decisions that affected their
Table 3
Experiment 1: Means and Effects for Performance Measures
Dependent variable
Condition (n112) Effects Contrasts (tvalues)
Lean Enriched Empowered Disempowered F(3, 103)
Effect size
LvR, P,
D, H1
RvP, H2
P, H3
Card sorting task
(SD) 15.24 (3.20) 12.91 (3.19) 10.94 (2.64) 12.76 (2.70) 10.07
.22 4.74
Card sorting task
(SD) 1.04 (2.02) 1.29 (1.98) 0.36 (0.95) 0.82 (1.22) 1.67 .04 0.61 2.15
Vigilance task
(SD) 7.51 (1.92) 6.69 (1.76) 6.08 (1.20) 7.70 (2.45) 4.44
.11 1.66
1.21 3.02
Vigilance task
(SD) 19.54 (6.25) 17.64 (6.52) 18.21 (4.89) 19.82 (5.40) 0.91 .02 0.77 0.37 1.41
Total time
(SD) 22.75, 100% (4.12) 19.60, 86.2% (3.47) 16.74, 73.6% (2.39) 20.47, 90.0% (4.28) 13.11
.27 4.81
Total errors
(SD) 20.57, 100% (6.80) 18.86, 91.2% (7.40) 18.36, 89.3% (4.97) 20.64, 100.3% (5.96) 0.96 .03 0.93 0.30 1.39
Note. Llean; R enriched; P empowered; Ddisempowered; H1 Hypothesis 1, (L R, P, D); H2 Hypothesis 2, (D R); H3 Hypothesis 3, (D R, P, H).
Contrast related to relevant hypotheses.
Time given in minutes.
Number of errors.
Total time and total errors (productivity) are shown as a percentage of the control (Lean) condition.
workspace. As hypothesized, nonempowered and disempowered
participants (after Baldry et al., 1998; Laing et al., 1998; Sewell,
1998; van Dick, Christ, & Stellmacher, 2004) were less satisfied
and less productive than participants who were empowered. Nev-
ertheless, as outlined above, the study had significant limitations.
To address these issues, Experiment 2 used a sample drawn ex-
clusively from a population of office workers. The experiment
itself took place in a working office and contained more realistic,
office-based tasks. The study also included a more relevant mea-
sure of organizational identification and an explicit measure of
organizational citizenship behavior (Organ, 1988). These tasks
were designed to replicate the straightforward tasks (information
processing and management) and repetitive activities (vigilance)
found in many low-skilled office jobs (C. Harris & Harris, 2006).
Although recognizing that self-reported OCB is of only limited
validity (Baker et al., 2006); it was felt that developing a quanti-
fiable measure of citizenship behavior would usefully augment the
results of the study. On the basis of social identity theorizing, we
anticipated that OCB would increase to the extent that workers
identify with each other and with their employer (Haslam, 2004;
Postmes et al., 2001). Thus, although the hypotheses for Experi-
ment 2 were the same as those in Experiment 1, we also predicted
that OCB would be more apparent in an enriched office than a lean
office (H1d), that OCB would increase further in an empowered
space (H2d), and that it would be reduced if empowered workers
were subsequently disempowered (H3d).
Participants and design. The design of Experiment 2 was the
same as Experiment 1 but with the addition of a quantifiable
measure of OCB. There were 47 office workers (28 men, 19
women) ranging in age from 22 to 61 years (M36.23, SD
9.57) who took part in the study. Of the sample, 35% described
themselves as nonmanagement staff, 30% as lower management,
26% as middle management, and 9% as senior management.
Potential participants, all from commercial businesses, were con-
tacted by mail, email, and telephone. Participation was on a vol-
untary basis and was unpaid.
Materials and procedures. The study was conducted in Lon-
don in an air-conditioned commercial office approximately 4.5 m
6 m in size. The space housed an executive desk (approximate
dimensions 2,200 800 mm) with two, 90° returns of approxi-
mately 2,000 600 mm, so that the effective desktop area took up
three sides of a hollow square with the participant at its center.
There was also a large matching credenza with eye-level storage in
the room (approximately 1,800 high 2,200 wide 800 deep).
Participants sat in a high backed, comfortable leather chair as they
worked. The room had a raised Tec-Crete floor, with a large
sea-grass rug beneath the desk covering the immediate working
area. The door and most of the walls were glass. Given that the
office used in Experiment 1 had no windows, views and external
distractions in this second experiment were minimized by ensuring
that participants sat with their backs to the outside world. Mean-
while temporary, opaque transfers were fixed to all other areas of
glass up to eye-line height thus obscuring any further views. The
study followed the same procedure as Experiment 1, using the
same number of plants and pictures. Participants spent 5 min alone
in their workspace in which to absorb the ambient environment
before the experiment began.
Measures. Although the instructions and timing procedures
were the same as in Experiment 1, the measures in Experiment 2
varied slightly to include tasks that were more representative of an
office environment (Anastasi, 1988). An additional OCB element
was also added.
Information management and processing task. Participants
were asked to work with a shuffled pile of corporate memoranda
based on a fictitious company. They had to imagine that they were
employees of this company and (a) sort the memoranda into
chronological order (an information management task) and then
(b) answer 15, multiple-choice questions based on the information
contained in these memos (an information processing task).
Vigilance task. The experiment’s second element, was exactly
the same as in Experiment 1 and once more participants were told
that they needed to perform the tasks as quickly and accurately as
Organizational citizenship behavior task. This new measure
took the form of a quantifiable, OCB task (after Organ, 1988;
Williams Pitre, & Zainuba, 2000). This built on the participants’
fictitious employment with the company described in the informa-
tion management task. Participants were asked to imagine that in
addition to a normal workload, they were responsible for 10 further
tasks. Five of these were undesirable (e.g., “Draw up proposals
about how the company should reduce its headcount”) and five
were desirable (e.g., “Represent the company at the annual Awards
Dinner”; after Paille, 2008). Participants were told that any number
of these tasks could be off-loaded onto a colleague and that this
would have no additional implications for them as the company’s
management would make sure that the participants’ peers did not
find out the source of any increase in workload.
Questionnaire. The same questionnaire was used as in Exper-
iment 1, but with two modifications. The three-item, organiza-
tional identification scale now reflected participants’ identification
with the organization managing (rather than the organization host-
ing) the experiment (␣⫽.90; typical item: “I identify with the
organization that is running this experiment”; after Doosje et al.,
1995), while the job satisfaction scale incorporated a measure of
OCB (8 items; ␣⫽.90; e.g., “If these were my normal working
conditions I would stay behind to do extra work if necessary, even
if I was not paid overtime”; after Haslam, O’Brien, Jetten,
Vormedal, & Penna, 2005).
Analytic strategy. Questionnaire and performance data were
then analyzed by means of ANOVA with office condition (lean,
enriched, empowered, disempowered) as a between-participants
factor. Interitem correlations are shown in Table 4; means and
effect sizes (
) are presented in Tables 5 and 6.
Manipulation checks. ANOVAs revealed effects for involve-
ment, autonomy and quality of workspace, Fs(3, 43) 18.42,
29.96, 11.51, respectively, all ps.001,
s.57, .68, .45,
respectively. Orthogonal planned contrasts indicated that (a) par-
ticipants in the lean condition felt less involved, less autonomous,
and thought they were in a poorer quality space than participants
in other conditions; (b) participants in the enriched office felt less
involved and less autonomous than participants in the empowered
condition; and (c) participants in the disempowered condition felt
less involved, less autonomous, and thought they were in a poorer
quality space than participants in the enriched and empowered
conditions. Relevant statistics are presented in Table 5.
Organizational identification. Analysis revealed a main ef-
fect for organizational identification, F(3, 43) 4.29, p.01,
.23. However, although this effect was stronger than that
obtained in Experiment 1, orthogonal contrasts again only pro-
vided support for H3a in showing that participants in the disem-
powered condition identified less with the organization than par-
ticipants in enriched and empowered conditions. Relevant statistics
are presented in Table 5.
Well-being. Analysis revealed effects for psychological com-
fort, job satisfaction, and physical comfort, Fs(3, 43) 20.50,
7.00, 6.65, respectively, all ps.01,
s.65, .33, .32, respec-
tively. Consistent with H1b, orthogonal planned contrasts indi-
cated that participants in the lean condition felt less psychologi-
cally comfortable, reported less job satisfaction, and felt less
physically comfortable than participants in other conditions. Con-
sistent with H2b, orthogonal contrasts showed that participants in
the empowered condition felt more psychologically comfortable
than participants in the enriched condition. Consistent with H3b,
orthogonal contrasts indicated that participants in the disempow-
ered condition felt less psychologically comfortable, reported
lower levels of job satisfaction, and reported feeling less physically
comfortable than participants in enriched and empowered condi-
tions. Relevant statistics are again presented in Table 5.
Productivity. Analysis revealed effects for time taken to com-
plete both the information management and the vigilance tasks,
Fs(3, 43) 3.73, 5.75, respectively, ps.018, .002, respectively,
s.21, .29, respectively. It also revealed effects for the number
of errors made on the information management task F(3, 43)
4.17, p.011,
.23. At the same time there were no effects
for the number of errors made on the vigilance task, F(3, 43)
1.23, p.311,
.08. Consistent with H1c, orthogonal planned
contrasts showed that participants in the lean condition took longer
to complete the information management task. There were no
significant differences in the number of errors made on the infor-
mation management task. Consistent with H2c, orthogonal con-
trasts showed that participants in the empowered condition took
less time to complete the vigilance task than participants in the
enriched condition. There were no significant differences in terms
of the number of errors made on the information management task.
Consistent with H3c, orthogonal contrasts showed that participants
in the disempowered condition took longer to complete the vigi-
lance task than participants in either the enriched or the empow-
ered conditions. Participants in the disempowered condition also
made significantly more errors on the information management
task than those in the enriched or empowered conditions. Relevant
statistics are presented in Table 6.
Organizational citizenship. Analysis revealed a main effect
for the total number of tasks retained on the OCB task, F(3, 43)
4.77, p.006,
.25. Consistent with H1d, orthogonal planned
contrasts indicated that participants in the lean condition retained
Table 4
Experiment 2: Bivariate Correlations
Dependent variable 1 2 34567
1. Involvement — .01 .89
2. Autonomy .04 .12 .07 .05 .02
3. Quality of workspace .79
4. Psychological comfort .64
5. Organizational identification .72
6. Job satisfaction .60
7. Physical comfort
Table 5
Experiment 2: Scale Properties, Means, and Effects for Measures of Participants’ Subjective Experience
Condition (n47) Effects Contrasts (tvalues)
Dependent variable Lean Enriched Empowered Disempowered F(3, 43)
Effect size
LvR, P,
D, H1
RvP, H2
DvR, P, H3
(SD) 2.25 (1.37) 4.82 (0.91) 5.83 (0.66) 2.79 (1.24) 18.42
.57 4.93
(SD) 2.44 (1.33) 4.33 (1.22) 5.94 (1.28) 2.48 (1.50) 29.96
.68 5.14
Quality of workspace
(SD) 3.39 (1.51) 5.47 (1.32) 5.69 (1.40) 3.82 (1.44) 11.51
.45 4.08
0.46 4.12
Psychological comfort
(SD) 3.02 (1.44) 4.98 (1.06) 5.68 (1.23) 3.20 (1.64) 20.50
.65 5.45
Organizational identification
(SD) 4.00 (2.10) 5.19 (1.19) 5.00 (1.13) 3.21 (1.41) 4.29
.23 0.93 0.32 3.43
Job satisfaction
(SD) 3.51 (1.69) 5.06 (1.13) 5.25 (0.98) 4.02 (1.75) 7.00
.33 3.49
0.43 2.87
Physical comfort
(SD) 5.02 (1.28) 6.08 (1.55) 6.45 (1.25) 4.79 (1.25) 6.65
.32 2.11
0.84 3.81
Note. H1 Hypothesis 1, (L R, P, D); H2 Hypothesis 2, (R P); H3 Hypothesis 3, (D R, P).
Contrast related to relevant hypotheses.
Means relate to 7-point scales (1 [completely disagree]–7 [completely agree]).
fewer OCB tasks (particularly, fewer negative tasks) than partici-
pants in other conditions. No other contrasts were significant (i.e.,
there was no support for H2d or H3d). Relevant statistics are
presented in Table 6.
The findings from this experiment are consistent with those
from Experiment 1 and provide further support for our experimen-
tal hypotheses. Consistent with H1, relative to the lean condition,
enriched office space led to improved feelings of psychological
comfort, job satisfaction, and physical comfort. It also led to tasks
being performed more quickly and to an increase in organizational
citizenship behavior.
Consistent with H2, when participants were empowered to dec-
orate their own working space, this led to a further improvement in
feelings of psychological comfort and to an increase in their levels
of productivity relative to participants in the enriched condition.
As had been found in Experiment 1, and consistent with Hypoth-
esis 3, among disempowered participants, feelings of psychologi-
cal comfort, organizational identification, and physical comfort all
fell relative to participants in both the enriched and empowered
conditions. Disempowered participants also tended to take more
time to complete the two tasks.
As well as replicating effects observed in Experiment 1, this
study extended its findings within a working commercial office as
opposed to a university laboratory and used a representative orga-
nizational sample. It also examined the impact of space manage-
ment on organizational citizenship behavior, which was lower in
the lean office than in all other conditions. This is in accord with
observations in the social psychological literature, which suggest
that when managers extend visible signs of care and empowerment
to employees, this can enhance organizational identification and
thereby increase the likelihood of workers engaging in more su-
pracontractual activity that benefits both their colleagues and their
employer (Baker et al., 2006; Williams & Anderson, 1991). As in
Experiment 1, however, there was again no evidence that organi-
zational identification played this mediational role, as effects on
this measure provided less support for our specific hypotheses than
responses on other outcome measures.
General Discussion
The two experiments reported above provide consistent support
for our hypotheses and for the central claim of this paper, namely
that design and empowerment both have an important role to play
in determining people’s responses to their work environment. In
both experiments, well-being and productivity were enhanced by
enriching a space (H1) and then further enhanced by empowering
participants (H2) within the same working environment. However,
disempowering participants (H3) had the effect of significantly
compromising both well-being and productivity. Experiment 2
also indicated that enrichment and empowerment led to increased
OCB (Organ, 1988). It is worth noting that in the empowered
condition there were no significant differences on key dependent
variables as a function of whether participants chose to create a
spartan or enriched space. These hypotheses, and the level of
support they received across the two experiments, are summarized
in Table 7.
Table 6
Experiment 2: Means and Effects for Performance Measures
Dependent variable
Condition (n47) Effects Contrasts (t-values)
Lean Enriched Empowered Disempowered F(3, 43)
Effect size
LvR, P,
D, H1
RvP, H2
DvR, P,
Information management/handling
(SD) 32.04 (9.28) 25.49 (6.85) 21.29 (6.63) 27.27 (8.91) 3.73
.21 2.75
1.29 1.33
Information management
(SD) 1.42 (1.08) 1.00 (1.21) 0.75 (.97) 2.64 (2.06) 4.17
.23 0.10 0.44 3.52
Vigilance task
(SD) 8.42 (2.11) 8.03 (2.34) 6.13 (1.78) 9.67 (2.06) 5.75
.29 0.68 2.24
(SD) 22.92 (10.16) 20.00 (9.97) 16.33 (8.99) 21.64 (9.98) 1.23 .08 1.21 1.01 1.07
Total time
(SD) 40.45, 100% (10.26) 33.53, 82.9% (7.62) 27.41, 67.8% (6.74) 36.94, 91.3% (9.70) 4.58
.24 2.61
1.67 1.98
Total errors
(SD) 24.33, 100% (10.02) 20.42, 83.9% (8.91) 17.08, 70.2% (6.52) 24.09, 99.0% (9.87) 1.88 .12 1.32 0.95 1.70
Negative OCB tasks retained (SD) 2.00 (1.91) 3.42 (1.17) 3.92 (.79) 2.82 (1.42) 4.20
.23 2.97
0.88 1.67
Positive OCB tasks retained (SD) 2.50 (1.31) 3.25 (.87) 2.75 (.97) 3.09 (.94) 1.25 .08 1.53 1.18 0.24
Total OCB tasks retained
(SD) 4.50, 100% (1.98) 6.42, 142.7% (1.78) 6.67, 148.2% (1.24) 5.91, 131.3% (1.30) 4.77
.25 3.56
0.40 1.13
Note. H1 Hypothesis 1, (L R, P, D); H2 Hypothesis 2, (R P); H3 Hypothesis 3, (D R, P); OCB organizational citizenship behavior.
Contrast related to relevant hypotheses.
Time given in minutes.
Given in errors.
Total time and total errors (productivity), and number of tasks retained (OCB) are shown as a percentage
of the control (Lean) condition.
The evidence presented here is in accord with the view that lean
conditions may indeed be psychologically impoverished (Munster-
berg, 1913; Zelinksy, 2006) and that insufficient peripheral stim-
ulation may be a factor in lower performance (Bringslimark et al.,
2007; Peters & Waterman, 2004; Zeisel, 2006). Certainly, enrich-
ing the environment—in line with most animal studies (e.g., Lars-
son, Winblad, & Mohammed, 2002)—made a quantitative and
qualitative difference to participants’ perceptions and perfor-
mances. As one of our participants remarked, “it’s so nice to come
into an office with plants and pictures, it makes a place feel more
homely, even a glass box [of an office] like this.” In line with
claims in the organizational literature (B. E. Becker & Huselid,
1998; Lawler, 1986) and as suggested by research in the social
identity tradition (Ellemers et al., 2004) having input into the
design of their work space increased participants’ feelings of
autonomy and decisional involvement and this led to increases in
comfort, job satisfaction and productivity. However, as a corollary,
these effects were attenuated when participants were disempow-
ered (Cohen, 2007; Peters, 1989).
From one perspective, these results may not seem at all surpris-
ing. Workers’ perception of procedural fairness via participative
decision making has already been equated with higher levels of
organizational identification and greater job satisfaction (Ellermers
et al., 2004; Haslam, 2004; Tyler & Blader, 2000). Nevertheless,
these data sit uncomfortably with a large body of neo-Taylorist
literature that promotes lean space, clean-desk policies, and stan-
dardized managerial control of working environments as keys to
productivity (e.g., Fredrickson, 1989; Hyer & Wemmerlov, 2002;
Marmot & Ely, 2000; Mills et al., 2007; Sewell & Wilkinson,
1992; Titman, 1991; Wilmott, 1993). Illustratively, Hobson (2006,
p. 33) argued that to maximize efficiency, the office must be
standardized to a pattern determined by management and clearly
communicated to staff. Such an approach points to a gulf between
managers empowered to think and the workers who are expected
to respond to their injunctions (see Baldry et al., 1998). Hobson
explained that “Having a defined, current best way of doing
something is of course completely useless unless people use it. We
(i.e., management) must communicate the new way of working to
the people who will use it” (p. 38). This philosophy of standard-
ization and control lie at the core of the lean office (see Keyte &
Locher, 2004; Louis, 2007) in which the practice of “sorting”
(George et al., 2004; Hirano, 1995; Peterka, 2006), encourages
managers to remove all items not directly related to the business
process to promote “work focus” and to minimize distraction
(Thompson, 2000).
Contrary to these ideas, the data from the present research
indicate that a lean space over which employees have no control is
the least productive use of the working environment. Instead, our
findings suggest that welfare and productivity are most likely to be
optimized by practices that empower the workforce (after Reicher
& Haslam, 2006). Indeed, in the experiments here, empowerment
was the key differentiating factor in increasing productivity by up
to 32%.
When management follows the recommendations to limit or
eliminate entirely the decisional involvement of low-status work-
ers in environmental decision making (e.g., Brill et al., 1984;
Duffy, 1997; Durmusoglu & Kulak, 2008; Faller, 2002; Garten-
berg, 2006; George et al., 2004; Hirano, 1996; Titman, 1991), the
result, as Vischer (2005) pointed out, is that apparently rational
space alteration, such as the removal of a door or partition, made
by managers and planners in the interests of efficiency, can mean
a “loss of privacy, a loss of control, a loss of identity” for the
powerless person who works in that space (p. 45). Such managerial
intrusion into “established” workspace (Sewell, 1998) links to the
fourth condition in the present studies, in which disempowerment
of participants was found to be at least as disadvantageous as
imposing a lean environment. Our results thus suggest that work-
space management techniques such as “setting in order” (George
et al., 2004; Hobson, 2006), which is prescriptive at the micro
level—so that, for example, “a draftsman should locate all his
stationery within reachable distance but not put (out) more pencils
than required on an average day” (Peterka, 2006, para. 4)—are
likely to compromise comfort, organizational identification, and
ultimately organizational effectiveness.
These findings represent an advance on previous studies in
providing a direct, quantitative assessment of the relative benefits
of approaches to space management informed by Taylorist, design
and social identity approaches. Although the patterns observed
here accord with findings that have previously been observed in
qualitative, case studies (e.g., Elsbach, 2003; Keyte & Locher,
2002; Laing et al., 1998; Peters & Waterman, 2004), the particular
advantage of the present research is that it uses an experimental
approach to manipulate relevant variables thereby increasing con-
trol over these variables and increasing confidence in the causal
Table 7
Summary of Support for Hypotheses Across Both Experiments
Hypothesis 1: Lean inferior
to all other conditions
Hypothesis 2: Enriched
inferior to empowered
Hypothesis 3:
Disempowered inferior to
enriched and empowered
Dependent variable Exp. 1 Exp. 2 Exp. 1 Exp. 2 Exp. 1 Exp. 2
Psychological comfort ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ()⫹⫹ ⫹⫹
Organizational identification ––––⫹⫹
Job satisfaction ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ––⫹⫹
Physical comfort ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹
Productivity—Time ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ ()
Productivity—Errors –––––()
Organizational citizenship Not tested ⫹⫹ Not tested ⫹⫹ Not tested
Note. Exp. experiment; ⫹⫽strong support ( p.01); ⫹⫽support ( p.05); ()weak support ( p.10); – no support ( p.10).
status of our independent variables. These data thus provide strong
support for previous suggestions that there may be value in orga-
nizations taking steps to empower all employees in the develop-
ment and management of their work space. This conclusion is very
much at odds with Taylorist principles and the managerial ap-
proach they have inspired, but it also points to some of the
limitations of a design-led approach to space management that
similarly lacks nonmanagerial input (Baldry et al., 1998; Furnham,
1990; Haberkorn, 2005; Hobsbawm, 1969; Louis, 2007; Masaaki,
1986; McGregor, 1960; Taylor, 1911; Zalesny & Farace, 1987).
Limitations and Further Research
Not withstanding the support it lends our hypotheses, this re-
search also has a number of limitations. The first of these is the
nature of the work space, which, even in Experiment 2, was
somewhat artificial. Participants were introduced to a strange
space and asked to perform unfamiliar tasks—a situation clearly
unlike most working offices in which workers are familiar with
both their working environment and the often repetitious nature of
their jobs (Baldry et al., 1998; Laing et al., 1998). In Experiment
2 it could be argued that instead of creating a more realistic setting
within a commercial environment, we had instead simply created
a laboratory in an office. This though, was very much the point, in
that by excluding the role of elements that were extraneous to our
purpose, the two studies allowed for a more forensic examination
of different theoretical positions than has previously been possible
(Mook, 1983; Turner, 1981). Indeed, in this respect, our manipu-
lations may have exposed less striking effects than we might
otherwise have achieved (e.g., had we disempowered participants
in their own established office rather than one in which they were
unfamiliar; see Peters & Waterman, 2004; Wegge, van Dick,
Fischer, Wecking, & Moltzen, 2006; Zelinsky, 2006).
Second, our studies examined individuals in cellular space,
whereas most low-status office workers work (a) in multiper-
son, open-plan offices and (b) in teams (see Baldry et al., 1998;
Barker, 1993; Fredrickson, 1989; Laing et al., 1998; Millward
et al., 2007). Accordingly, there is clearly a need for future
studies to extend the reasoning of the present studies to inves-
tigate the behavior of groups of participants working in desig-
nated space. Our general expectation would be that the hypoth-
eses explored here would also hold true in these contexts,
although we might expect the effects to be moderated by social
identity dynamics that would exacerbate both productivity and
resistance (e.g., see Haslam, 2004).
Third, it is apparent that although we had expected the impact of
our manipulations on key outcomes to be mediated by organiza-
tional identification (as they were in previous survey research;
Knight & Haslam, in press), neither of the above studies provided
any evidence of this. In part this was a consequence of the fact that
the effects observed on our measure of organizational identifica-
tion were weaker than those observed on other key measures (i.e.,
of well-being and productivity). Planned contrasts thus indicated
that identification was lower when participants worked in disem-
powered rather than enriched or empowered space (supporting
H3a), but there was no evidence that identification was lower in
the lean office than others (H1a), or lower in the enriched office
than in the empowered one (H2a). The reasons for this are unclear
and certainly warrant further investigation. Although in Experi-
ment 1 there were problems with the way that the identification
measure was framed, these were rectified in Experiment 2, but
there was still only limited evidence of variation in identification
across conditions. It is possible however, that this reflects the fact
that the present studies manipulated rather than simply measured
organizational identification. In particular, whereas in survey stud-
ies the meaning of identification is quite clear and is anchored in
people’s ongoing organizational experiences (reflecting what
Rousseau (1998) referred to as deep identification; see also Riketta
& van Dick, 2005), in the present context—in which participants
were responding to a novel and unfamiliar organizational con-
text—its meaning may have been less clear (reflecting what Rous-
seau termed surface identification, 1998) with the result that it did
not covary quite so straightforwardly with the IV. Consistent with
this point, Sigall and Mills (1998) sounded a cautionary note in
identifying a range of reasons why experimental studies often fail
to detect mediation when it is present (and vice versa; see also
Haslam & McGarty, 2004).
It follows from this point, fourth, that there would be value in
longitudinal research that examined the processes we have studied
here over an extended period. The present studies do not show, for
example, whether workers in the lean office perform better as time
progresses. We find it interesting that the lean literature suggests
they do not. Indeed, sustaining improvements associated with the
introduction of lean practices is frequently cited as hard for man-
agers to achieve (George et al., 2004; Hobson, 2006; Peterka,
2006). Conversely, it is important to establish whether improve-
ments brought about by empowering employees will be main-
tained in the way that the literature suggests they are (Cohen, 2007;
Duffy, 1997; Vischer, 2006).
Fifth, it is also the case that our OCB task would benefit from
proper weighting. Originally we asked 12 office workers not involved
in the study to rate which seven of 14 original tasks they considered
undesirable and which seven they considered desirable. The top five
undesirable and desirable tasks were then used in the experiment
itself. However, had we also asked for these tasks to be explicitly
weighted (e.g., in terms of time taken and popular/negative affect) the
reliability of this measure might have been improved.
Finally, our research to date has concentrated on the world of work.
However, it may be beneficial to examine the effects of empowerment
in, for example, hospital or residential care environments. Literature
tells us of the importance of high-quality emotional contact with
family and friends in such settings (Deci, La Guardia, Moller, Schei-
ner, & Ryan, 2006) and of the importance of group identity within
familial and social boundaries (Twigger-Ross, Bonaiuto & Breakwell,
2003). However would introducing elements of group choice into care
situations increase or compromise physical well-being and feelings of
satisfaction? Extending the rationale of the present study, we have
begun to explore such questions among groups of older residents in
care homes and it is interesting to note that our preliminary findings
accord closely with the conclusions of the present research. Specifi-
cally, they indicate that residents’ well-being and engagement are
enhanced to the extent that living arrangements are not just enriched
but also empowering (Knight, Haslam, & Haslam, in press).
Concluding Comments
The novel contribution of the present research lies in identifying
theoretical and empirical connections between different strategies
of office space management and workers’ well-being and produc-
tivity. In this, it also breaks new ground by demonstrating how
strategies of empowerment can contribute not only to organiza-
tional productivity but also to employee welfare.
At the same time it suggests that popular approaches to office
space management that overlook the psychological needs of em-
ployees may be misguided. For these approaches miss out on the
benefits that accrue when employees are included in decisions
about space management and hence come to identify both with that
space and with the organization itself. In this respect, it appears
that it is not only better for an office to be “green” rather than
“lean,” but also that employees within that office should be em-
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Zelinsky, M. (2006). The inspired workspace: Design for creativity and
productivity. Gloucester, MA: Rockport.
Received July 13, 2009
Revision received December 18, 2009
Accepted February 8, 2010
Call for Papers
Special Issue on Human Performance in Health Care
The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied invites submissions of manuscripts that
address issues related to applied experimental psychology and human performance in all aspects of
health care.
Human error and safety in health care systems has been a focus of national concern since the 1999
Institute of Medicine report. That report also emphasized the critical role of human factor issues as
both a contributor to medical error that threatens safety and an approach to mitigating error and
improving safety. Theories and methods related to human performance and cognition have played
an increasingly important role in guiding research related to health care, error, and system safety.
JEP: Applied invites manuscripts that describe empirical research that investigates any aspect of
health care with implications for understanding and improving health care processes and practices.
An ideal submission will describe work that meets the following criteria:
1. The work is motivated by and contributes to theories of human performance (relevant to
cognitive or other psychological processes).
2. The work is experimental in the sense that it provides evidence for causal influences underlying
the findings and provides the reader some certainty in the interpretation of the causal influences;
multiexperiment studies may be important for providing such evidence. Observational methods may
also be appropriate as long as the study design provides compelling suggestions of causal factors.
3. The work produces findings that have immediate and obvious practical relevance. Employing
participants (e.g., providers or patients) and tasks that are representative of actual health care
contexts are especially sought.
Topics of interest for the special issue are not constrained and may include the impact of
information technology on practitioner workload, evaluation of the design of health care displays
(e.g., patient monitoring), impact of operator factors (e.g., fatigue, situation awareness) or task-
related factors (e.g., interruptions) on error or other aspects of performance, teamwork processes in
critical care, or patient self-care.
If you are interested in contributing to this special issue, please e-mail both guest editors, Dan
Morrow ( and Frank Durso (, by May 15, 2010. Include
a tentative title and brief summary of the planned manuscript. The letter of intent is optional. All
solicited manuscripts will be peer-reviewed and required to meet the standards of any JEP: Applied
The deadline for submissions is September 1, 2010. The special issue will be published mid-2011.
Papers should be submitted through the ,JEP: Applied web portal:
xap/submission.html. Please indicate in your cover letter that you wish for the paper to be
considered as part of the special issue on human performance in health care.
... Similarly, there were studies that denied the statistical significance of the causal relationship between nature elements placed in an indoor environment and task performance. [52][53][54] Thus, it can be said that the improvement in "task performance" according to the "visual element of a green wall" is not large enough to show statistical significance. Additionally, the mean value of the "task performance" in the full-sized green wall condition was statistically lower than that in the one freestanding green wall condition and in the two freestanding green walls condition. ...
As the time spent indoors increases significantly due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic, creating an indoor environment to promote the health of occupants has become critical. Although green walls efficiently realize a healthy indoor environment, few studies have analyzed their impact on occupants based on the visual element of green walls. This study measures the emotional impact, task performance, and task load of the subjects according to four virtual experiments (a non‐green wall, a freestanding green wall, two freestanding green walls, and a full‐sized green wall). The results of the four experiments are as follows: (i) The visual elements of the green wall had an emotional impact on the occupants, which was verified through the Friedman test; (ii) the effect of the visual elements of the green wall on the task performance of the occupants was not verified by the one‐way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA); and (iii) the task load of the occupants influenced their task performance, which was verified by the repeated‐measures ANOVA. This study can help determine the optimal type and area of green walls by considering their impact on the occupants as well as on the economic and constructional aspects of the indoor space.
... Workspace and its physical arrangement might affect employees´ job performance and satisfaction (Vischer 2007). Knight and Haslam (2010) showed that nicely decorated offices with plants and pieces of arts improve productivity and well-being. When employees can contribute themselves to the decoration, the positive effects on work motivation is accentuated. ...
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The objective of this research is to understand gender differences in motivational drivers at workplace, with a focus on people with working experiences in the field of e-commerce and e-business. Special attention is devoted to the preference of the competitive and cooperative behaviour. We examined gender differences in the preference of eight motivational drivers on a sample of N = 429 (41 % females). Results showed that males ranked higher in motivation by professional challenge, preference of competitive settings and opportunities to develop. Females scored higher in the motivation by social support and physical working environment. Interestingly, there were found no gender differences in preference of financial reward and recognition, what supports the thesis of equal pay and equal treatment policies. The most pronounced gender differences occurred in the preference of competitive vs. cooperative behaviour. Males have significantly higher preference of competition when compared to females and vice-versa. In the analytical quadrant of motivation by high competition and low cooperation there was 35 % of males and 16 % of females. In the opposite quadrant of motivation by low competition and high cooperation there were 24 % of males vs. 45 % of females. Results have interesting implications for management of human resources and gender-based talent management.
... Evidence from a broad range of studies suggest that natural environments positively impact well-being, from mental restoration research (eg., Korpela et al., 2010;Staats et al., 2003), to worker performance (eg., Knight & Haslam, 2010;Mangone et al., 2017), to child cognitive, physical, and social development (eg., Laaksoharju et al., 2012), to research on recreation activities and environments (eg., Boyd et al., 2018), to the impacts of forest bathing (eg., Park et al., 2011). Results from these diverse research domains suggest that the benefits conferred to visitors is partially impacted by the type of natural environment visited. ...
Although people generally have positive evaluations of natural environments and stimuli, theory and research suggest that certain biomes are more preferable than others. Existing theories often draw on evolutionary ideas and people’s familiarity with biome types, with familiarity being the most supported, albeit not conclusively, in existing research. Across three samples (n = 720) we sought to compare preference ratings of 40 images that represented ten biomes (beach, lake, tropical and temperate forest, marsh, swamp, meadow, park, mountain, and river). We addressed objective familiarity by recruiting samples from two distinct geographies (Florida and Ontario), and we assessed subjective familiarity via image ratings. Familiarity was positively associated with liking biomes, though this trend was stronger for subjective familiarity compared to geography. Substantial variation in biome type preferences could not be attributed to familiarity. Specific biome types were strongly preferred irrespective of familiarity and geography. e.g., beaches and lakes were highly preferred, while marshes and swamps were substantially less preferred than other biome types. Further analyses found that the individual difference of nature relatedness predicted both familiarity and liking of all biomes except beaches, and that there was a lack of seasonal effects (fall and winter) across two Ontario samples. We discuss how results provide qualified support for the familiarity view, limits of this interpretation, how methodological choices such as the number of ratings might impact findings, and the potential applications of these results in landscape design.
The rising number of digital peer-to peer (P2P) platforms, e.g. Airbnb and HomeAway, has shaken up the hospitality industry by creating a specific context that leverages peer value co-creation behaviour (VCCB), but which, despite growing interest, remains under-explored. The purpose of this study is to further the understanding of peer VCCB in P2P digital platforms by investigating their antecedents and outcomes. Data are drawn from 24 interviews with managers, four focus groups with users of P2P platforms, and a survey using a sample of 712 peers. The main findings show that peers’ identification, resource-sharing and experience are predictors of their VCCB, which, in turn, influences their motivation, relationships, loyalty and active participation in the platform. The study’s implications propose guidelines to managers of P2P platforms on how to enhance peers’ perceived quality, identification, resource-sharing and experience to increase their VCCB and active participation.
Unsere Arbeitswelt befindet sich seit einigen Jahren in einem rudimentären und strukturellen Wandel. Durch die zunehmende Digitalisierung entwickeln wir uns mehr und mehr von einer Industrie- zu einer Wissensgesellschaft und verändern damit auch unseren Arbeitsbegriff. So bewegen wir uns heute weg von unseren traditionellen und starren Arbeitsstrukturen hin zu den neuen Arbeitsweisen im digitalen und globalen Zeitalter. Diese Entwicklung und die daraus resultierende neue Arbeitswelt kann unter dem Begriff ‚New Office‘ zusammengefasst werden, der Begriff ‚New Work‘ wurde ursprünglich von Frithjof Bergmann verwendet. Wenn wir wollen, dass sich auch künftige Generationen mit geplanten neuen Arbeitsumgebungen angesprochen fühlen und die Erwartungen an ein gesundes Büro erfüllt werden, dann müssen bei der Veränderung der Arbeitswelt spezifische menschliche Bedürfnisse berücksichtigt werden. Das private Umfeld ist ein mögliches Modell für eine flexible Raumstruktur, in der die Bereiche jeweils auf unterschiedliche, ganz menschliche Bedürfnisse ausgerichtet sind und damit eine Vielzahl unterschiedlicher Arbeits- und Tätigkeitsbereiche repräsentieren. Im Büro begegnet man in der Regel einer sehr monotonen Raumgestaltung. Um auch im Büro eine bedarfsorientierte und selbstbestimmte Arbeitsweise zu fördern, sollten vielseitige Raumstrukturen in die Bürowelt integriert werden. Mit einer größeren Standortwahl ist es nicht mehr notwendig, an einem Ort zu bleiben, sondern die Arbeitsposition kann immer wieder gewechselt werden. Dies sorgt für mehr Bewegung und unterstützt sowohl ergonomische Arbeitsmethoden als auch eine bessere Arbeitsleistung und Kreativität. Für mehr Produktivität am Arbeitsplatz ist ein Umfeld, in dem man sich als Individuum wohl fühlt, besonders wichtig. Die Mitbestimmung bei der Bürogestaltung wirkt sich nachweislich positiv auf unsere Produktivität, unsere Identifikation mit unserem Arbeitsplatz und damit auf unsere Gesundheit aus. Schon kleine Eingriffe, wie Dekorationen oder Begrünungen, sorgen für eine erhöhte Mitarbeiterzufriedenheit und ein größeres kreatives Potenzial.Mit der Veränderung unserer Arbeitsumgebung sind viele Vorteile verbunden. Insbesondere die neu gewonnene Flexibilität und Selbstbestimmung sorgen für verbesserte Arbeitsbedingungen. Neue Formen des Wissens bergen aber auch Gefahren durch die zunehmende Verschmelzung von Privat- und Berufsleben. Ständige Erreichbarkeit und Transparenz im Büroalltag beeinflussen zunehmend unser Privatleben und erschweren es heutzutage, von der Arbeit abzuschalten und sich zu entspannen. Dies führt zu gesundheitlichen Beeinträchtigungen und wirkt sich kontraproduktiv auf unser Wohlbefinden sowie auf die Arbeitsleistung und Produktivität aus. Bei der Planung neuer Arbeitsumgebungen, die unsere Gesundheit fördern, muss ein sensibler Ansatz gewählt werden, und vor allem sollte die Selbstbestimmung der Mitarbeiter im Vordergrund stehen. Wie schon bei Frithjof Bergmann geht es in Zukunft um nicht weniger als die Übertragung von Veränderungen der Lebens- und Sozialkultur auf den Bereich der Gestaltung menschlicher Büros.
This chapter explores the somatic experience of work. We discuss how and why communicators can play a much more powerful role in workplace redesign strategy. We consider research into the environmental aspects of office life, including natural light, green plants, and artwork. We also investigate interoception and proprioception and the importance of movement.
The concept of eudaemonia originates from neo-Aristotelian philosophy and is associated with human flourishing. Self-determination theory, a means to attain eudaemonia, is examined here as a foundational approach to drive Eudaemonic Design--a novel design strategy that aims to achieve holistic physical, mental, and social health, or eudaemonic well-being. This chapter advances Eudaemonic Design as an architectural and organizational approach to create healthful work environments that support employee and business flourishing. The authors argue that the importance of adopting Eudaemonic Design has grown in need and complexity as work is (re)shaped by the constraints and opportunities presented by the pandemic. By contrasting dominant pre-COVID-19 Work from Office expectations against the post-COVID-19 Work from Anywhere model, this chapter explores the application of Eudaemonic Design to deliver holistic workplace well-being, rather than single variable health and wellness alone, now and into the post-COVID-19 future of work.
Full-text available
Not only increasing digitization but particularly the current pandemic calls conventional places of work into question. After New Work, the home office appears to be solution. But where do communication and exchange take place? Are online meetings really able to replace the creative coexistence in the workplace? At Coburg University of Applied Sciences, professor Mark Nicholas Phillips and Angelika Donhauser are doing research on the working worlds of the future and present their findings below.
The authoritative classic-revised and updated for today's Six Sigma practitionersWhether you want to further your Six Sigma training to achieve a Black or Green Belt or you are totally new to the quality-management strategy, you need reliable guidance. The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition shows you, step by step, how to integrate this profitable approach into your company's culture.Co-written by an award-winning contributor to the practice of quality management and a successful Six Sigma trainer, this hands-on guide features:Cutting-edge, Lean Six Sigma concepts integrated throughoutCompletely revised material focused on project objectives Updated and expanded problem-solving examples using Excel and MinitabA streamlined format that puts proven practices at your fingertipsThe Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition is the only comprehensive reference you need to make Six Sigma work for your company. The book explains how to organize for Six Sigma, how to use customer requirements to drive strategy and operations, how to carry out successful project management, and more. Learn all the management responsibilities and actions necessary for a successful deployment, as well as how to:Dramatically improve products and processes using DMAIC and DMADVUse Design for Six Sigma to create innovative products and processesIncorporate lean, problem-solving, and statistical techniques within the Six Sigma methodologyAvoid common pitfalls during implementationSix Sigma has evolved with the changing global economy, and The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition is your key to ensuring that your company realizes significant gains in quality, productivity, and sales in today's business climate.