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The effect of office concepts on worker health and performance: A systematic review of the literature

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Conventional and innovative office concepts can be described according to three dimensions: (1) the office location (e.g. telework office versus conventional office); (2) the office lay-out (e.g. open lay-out versus cellular office); and (3) the office use (e.g. fixed versus shared workplaces). This review examined how these three office dimensions affect the office worker's job demands, job resources, short- and long-term reactions. Using search terms related to the office concept (dimensions), a systematic literature search starting from 1972 was conducted in seven databases. Subsequently, based on the quality of the studies and the consistency of the findings, the level of evidence for the observed findings was assessed. Out of 1091 hits 49 relevant studies were identified. Results provide strong evidence that working in open workplaces reduces privacy and job satisfaction. Limited evidence is available that working in open workplaces intensifies cognitive workload and worsens interpersonal relations; close distance between workstations intensifies cognitive workload and reduces privacy; and desk-sharing improves communication. Due to a lack of studies no evidence was obtained for an effect of the three office dimensions on long-term reactions. The results suggest that ergonomists involved in office innovation could play a meaningful role in safeguarding the worker's job demands, job resources and well-being. Attention should be paid, in particular, to effects of workplace openness by providing acoustic and visual protection.
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The effect of office concepts on worker health
and performance: a systematic review of
the literature
EINAR M. DE CROON*, JUDITH K. SLUITER,
P. PAUL F.M. KUIJER and MONIQUE H.W. FRINGS-DRESEN
Coronel Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health, Academic Medical
Center, Research Institute Amsterdam Center for Health and Health Care Research
(AmCOGG), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Conventional and innovative office concepts can be described according to
three dimensions: (1) the office location (e.g. telework office versus
conventional office); (2) the office lay-out (e.g. open lay-out versus cellular
office); and (3) the office use (e.g. fixed versus shared workplaces). This
review examined how these three office dimensions affect the office
worker’s job demands, job resources, short- and long-term reactions.
Using search terms related to the office concept (dimensions), a systematic
literature search starting from 1972 was conducted in seven databases.
Subsequently, based on the quality of the studies and the consistency of
the findings, the level of evidence for the observed findings was assessed.
Out of 1091 hits 49 relevant studies were identified. Results provide strong
evidence that working in open workplaces reduces privacy and job
satisfaction. Limited evidence is available that working in open workplaces
intensifies cognitive workload and worsens interpersonal relations; close
distance between workstations intensifies cognitive workload and reduces
privacy; and desk-sharing improves communication. Due to a lack of
studies no evidence was obtained for an effect of the three office
dimensions on long-term reactions. The results suggest that ergonomists
involved in office innovation could play a meaningful role in safeguarding
the worker’s job demands, job resources and well-being. Attention should
be paid, in particular, to effects of workplace openness by providing
acoustic and visual protection.
Keywords: Office; Health; Performance
*Corresponding author. Email: e.m.decroon@amc.uva.nl
Ergonomics, Vol. 48, No. 2, 10 February 2005, 119 – 134
Ergonomics
ISSN 0014-0139 print/ISSN 1366-5847 online #2005 Taylor & Francis Ltd
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals
DOI: 10.1080/00140130512331319409
1. Introduction
With the introduction of Information and Communication Technology and more flexible
ways of organizing work processes, the work environment of office workers has changed
substantially in the last decades. The changing nature of the office worker’s environment
is exemplified by the growing number of organizations that move from conventional
offices with fixed workplaces to more open and transparent offices with shared
workplaces (Vos and Van der Voordt 2002). Another example is the increasing number
of organizations that allow office workers to work at home as a teleworker (Standen et al.
1999).
The introduction of innovative office concepts may allow organizations to save office
space, reduce general and technical service costs and increase flexibility of office use.
From a cost-efficiency point of view, therefore, the introduction of these office concepts
seems advantageous. However, new office concepts may affect office worker health as well
as office worker performance. An office concept characterized by an open and transparent
lay-out, may, for instance, increase distraction and irritability and, as a consequence,
threaten the health and performance of the office worker in the longer term. Potential
effects of office concepts on health and performance, therefore, should also be considered
in the development and introduction of new office concepts (Pullen and Bradley 2004).
2. Conceptual model
Building on architectural nomenclature (Vos et al. 1999), social relations approach,
cognitive overload theory (Desor 1972; Geen and Gange 1977; Oldham et al. 1991; Evans
and Lepore 1992), privacy theory (Sundstrom et al. 1980), the demand-resources theory
of occupational stress (Demerouti et al. 2001) and the model of workload and capacity
(Van Dijk et al. 1990) a general conceptual model was constructed for this study. This
model depicts the relationship between office concepts and worker health and
performance (see figure 1). For the purpose of this study, office concepts are defined in
the model by three office dimensions, namely, the office location, the office lay-out and
the office use (albeit the relevance of other office aspects such as office furniture and office
climate is recognized). According to the model, office concepts in terms of these three
dimensions influence work conditions in terms of job demands and job resources. These
work conditions, in turn, may result in (un)favourable psychophysiological short-term
reactions. Office concepts may also influence these short-term reactions independently of
job demands and job resources. In the longer run, short-term reactions may affect office
worker health and performance, termed long-term reactions in the model. The concepts
of the model are described below.
2.1. Office concepts: location, lay-out and use
Three dimensions can be used to describe office concepts (Vos et al. 1999): the office
location; the office lay-out; and the office use. The office location refers to the place at
which the office worker carries out his/her activities. The office worker may work in the
conventional office, or he/she may work in the telework office at home. The office lay-out
refers to the arrangement of workplaces and type of boundaries in an office (Oldham et
al. 1995). Two core features of the office lay-out are included in the conceptual model,
namely, the workplace openness and the distance between workstations. The office use
refers to the manner in which workplaces are assigned to office workers. One single
120 E. M. de Croon et al.
workplace may be assigned to one single office worker (i.e. the fixed workplace), or one
workplace may be assigned to a range of office workers, hereafter termed desk-sharing.
2.2. Work conditions: job demands and job resources
Job demands are work conditions that require physical, mental or emotional effort
(Demerouti et al. 2001). Office concepts may impact on several job demands. In the model
two demands are distinguished: (a) cognitive workload, i.e. the extent to which office stimuli,
such as noise, place an elevated demand on cognitive-attentional processes; and (b) working
hours, such as irregular working hours due to desk-sharing. Job resources are work
conditions that are supportive in achieving work goals, reduce job demands at the associated
physiological and psychological costs, or stimulate personal growth and development.
Office concepts may also influence job resources. The conceptual model differentiates four
resources: (a) communication (e.g. desk-sharing may stimulate communication); (b) work
autonomy (e.g. teleworking may increase autonomy over work scheduling); (c) psycholo-
gical privacy (e.g. an open office may reduce psychological privacy); and (d) interpersonal
relations at work (e.g. teleworking may reduce social support from co-workers).
2.3. Short-term reactions
According to the conceptual model, office concepts may directly or indirectly, via job
demands and job resources, result in physiological and psychological short-term
reactions, such as crowding stress, i.e. the psychological state of inadequacy of space
(Stokols 1972), occupationally induced fatigue, job satisfaction, the excretion of cortisol
and increased levels of blood pressure.
Figure 1. Conceptual model that depicts the hypothesized relation from office concepts
in terms of office location, office lay-out and office use (via) demands and resources to
short- and long-term reactions.
The effect of old and new office concepts on health and performance 121
2.4. Long-term reactions
Accumulation of short-term reactions may, in the long term, result in more serious
reactions. These long-term reactions include decreased performance (Cotton and Hart
2003) and negative health outcomes, such as psychosomatic health complaints including
chronic fatigue, burnout and musculoskeletal disorders (De Lange et al. 2002; Sluiter et
al. 2003).
3. Research aims
Narrative reviews of research on office effects have provided us with useful information
(Wineman 1982; Davis 1984; Oldham et al. 1995; Gifford 1997; Standen et al. 1999;
Brennan et al. 2002). However, to the authors’ knowledge, an updated review in which
the evidence is searched and synthesized in a systematic and critical manner has not been
conducted. This study, therefore, systematically reviewed the scientific literature on
effects of office concepts. To this end, the relations depicted in the conceptual model were
translated into three research questions.
1. What is the effect of office location on work conditions (demands and resources),
short- and long-term reactions?
2. What is the effect of office lay-out on work conditions (demands and resources),
short- and long-term reactions?
3. What is the effect of office use on work conditions (demands and resources), short-
and long-term reactions?
4. Methods
4.1. Literature search and selection
A literature search was conducted with a range of search terms in the title and/or abstract
(see table 1). The search was conducted in: 1) Picarta (Dutch research reports) 2);
OSHROM (1970 – 2003); 3) PsycINFO (1970 – 2003); 4) Biological abstracts (1972 –
2003); 5) Sociological abstracts (1970 2003); 6) Embase (1980 2003); and 7) Ergonomic
Abstracts (1985 2003). Furthermore, to find additional publications a reference check of
the identified studies was performed and conversations with four Dutch experts in the
field of office innovation were conducted.
Study selection was carried out in two stages. In the first stage, studies were included on
the basis of title and abstract using four inclusion criteria: (a) original study (no review or
opinion article); (b) the study examines office location, office lay-out or office use as
independent variables; (c) the study is conducted among individuals who perform paid
office work in an office environment; and (d) analogous with the conceptual model, the
study examines work conditions, short- or long-term reactions as dependent variables. In
the second stage, studies were included on the basis of the whole manuscript using the
same four criteria.
4.2. Methodological quality assessment
Using generally accepted criteria as the point of departure (Altman 2001), the quality of
the included studies was evaluated on the basis of: (a) the response percentage ( 450%):
122 E. M. de Croon et al.
(b) the adequacy of the statistical tests that were used; and (c) the quality of the study
design (see Table 2 for an explanation). Studies were classified as high quality studies
when they met all three quality criteria. Studies that met one or two quality criteria were
classified as medium quality studies. Studies that did not meet any quality criterion were
labelled low quality studies and were excluded from further review in spite of their
preceding inclusion.
4.3. Synthesis of the evidence
On the basis of the quality and consistency of the findings in the literature (Arie
¨ns et al.
2001; Lievense et al. 2002), the information on office effects was synthesized into four
levels of evidence: (1) insufficient evidence: less than three studies are available; (2) limited
evidence: consistent findings in one or two high-quality studies and at least two medium
quality studies; (3) strong evidence: consistent findings in at least three high quality
studies; and (4) inconsistent evidence: the remaining cases. It should be noted that only
statistically significant findings were taken into account in the evidence synthesis.
5. Results
The search in the databases and the reference lists, as well as the conversations with the
experts, resulted in 1091 publications. After the first inclusion stage, 80 publications were
withheld. After the second inclusion stage, 49 of these 80 publications remained in the
study for review.
Table 3 gives information on the independent and dependent variables, the country in
which the study was conducted, the occupational setting, the response percentage, the
Table 1. Terms in title or summary used for the search.
Activity-related office Landscape office Virtual \office
Lean office Office renovation Telework \office
Clean desk New office Working at home \office
Cocon
a
concept Innovative workplace Private \office
Cocon office New office layout Open(ness) \office
Combi-office Non territorial office Closed \office
Concentration workplace Non-territorial office Density \office
Conventional office Open office Dense \office
Desk-sharing Open plan office Crowding \office
Wireless office Team office Enclosures \office
Dynamic
b
office Traditional office Spatial \office
Experimental office Variety office Boundaries \office
Flexible office Office transformation Distance \office
Flexible workplace Virtual office Accessibility \office
Shared office Innovative office Visibility \office
Group office Workplace innovation Partitions \office
Hotel office Shared workplace Noise \office
Innovative office Office innovation Privacy \office
Innovative workplace concepts Flexible \office
Note.
a
Cocon office is derived from the terms communication and concentration and is characterized by
separate and small workstations destined for carrying out individual tasks and a large communal room
reserved for consultations.
b
Dynamic office concerns an office concept that allows office workers to search
for a workstation that is fitted to the very task at hand. At office management the office worker may book
a workstation in advance.
The effect of old and new office concepts on health and performance 123
adequacy of statistical testing, the study design and the quality rating. Inspection of table
3 reveals that twelve studies met all three quality criteria (high quality studies); 35 studies
met one or two criteria (medium quality studies); and two studies met no criteria
(excluded low quality studies). Three, seven and 37 studies investigated the office location,
the office lay-out and the office use, respectively, as the independent variable.
Furthermore, the effect on work conditions, short- and long-term reactions was
examined in 25, 26 and 17 studies, respectively. Please note that several studies examined
more than one dependent variable.
5.1. Effects of office location on work conditions and short- and long-term reactions
5.1.1. Effect of office location on work conditions. Three studies (references 1, 2, 3 in
table 3) examined the effect of office location, namely, teleworking at home, on work
conditions. One study (reference 3 in table 3) established no effect of teleworking on
working hours, communication, autonomy and interpersonal relations. The second study
(reference 2 in table 3) showed that teleworking was associated with more overwork as
compared to working in the conventional office. Furthermore, this study demonstrated
that teleworkers perceive more work autonomy as compared to office workers in the
conventional office. The third study (reference 1 in table 3) did not show evidence of an
effect of teleworking on working hours and interpersonal relations. In short, there is
insufficient evidence to conclude about the effect of teleworking on work conditions.
5.1.2. Effect of office location on short-term reactions. Two studies (references 2, 3 in
table 3) looked into the effect of teleworking at home on short-term reactions. One study
(reference 3 in table 3) failed to find an effect of teleworking on job satisfaction. The other
study (reference 2 in table 3) found that, as compared to working in the conventional
office, teleworking at home slowed down adrenaline recovery after work. In short, there is
insufficient evidence to make a conclusion about the effect of office location on short-term
reactions.
5.1.3. Effects of office location on long-term reactions. One study (reference 2 in table 3)
investigated the association between teleworking at home and performance. This study
Table 2. Description and evaluation of the four study designs
Type of design Description
Evaluation
(0 – 1)
Laboratory
design
Design in which a specific office environment is simulated and potential
effects on work conditions, health and well-being are examined under
controlled conditions
1
Prospective
field design
Design in which work conditions, health and well-being of the same office
workers are observed before and after an office transformation
1
Retrospective
field design
Design in which office workers who occupy a new office are asked to compare
work conditions, health and well-being in the current office environment with
work conditions, health and well-being of their former office
0
Cross-sectional
field design
Design in which work conditions, health and well-being of two groups of
office workers in different office environments are compared
0
Note. 0 = design is of low to medium quality; 1 = design is of high quality.
124 E. M. de Croon et al.
Table 3. Description of the 49 studies.
Setting of study Follow-up Independent
Dependent
variable Statist. Study Total
Reference number (reference) population Country in months N variable W S L Response test design score Quality
1. (Hill et al. 1998) Marketing US 246 Location 3360% 1 CFD 2 MQ
2. (Lundberg and Lindfors 2002) Government Sweden 51 26 Location 33 46% 1 PFD 2 MQ
3. (Olson 1989) IT US 6 32 Location 33 100% 1 PFD 3 HQ
4. (Banburry and Berry 1997) Clerical UK 48 Lay-out 3100% 1 LAB 3 HQ
5. (Banburry and Berry 1998) Clerical UK 48 Lay-out 3100% 1 LAB 3 HQ
6. (Becker et al. 1983) University US 100 Lay-out 397% 1 CFD 2 MQ
7. (Block 1989) Clerical US 169 Lay-out 33 100% 1 LAB 3 HQ
8. (Brasche et al. 2001) Diverse Germany NA Lay-out 370% 1 CFD 2 MQ
9. (Brennan et al. 2002) Petrol company Canada 6 21 Lay-out 333 26% 1 PFD 2 MQ
10. (Brookes 1972) Retail firm US 9 100 Lay-out 383% 1 PFD 3 HQ
11. (Carlopio and Gardner 1992) Bank Australia 228 Lay-out 33 60% 1 CFD 2 MQ
12. (Cosijn and Den Hertog 1972) Electronics Netherlands 36 365 Lay-out 382% 0 RFD 1 MQ
13. (Crouch and Nimran 1989) Government Australia 51 Lay-out 3329% 1 CFD 1 MQ
14. (Duvall-Early and Benedict 1992) Secretary US 130 Lay-out 365% 1 CFD 2 MQ
15. (Evans and Johnson 2000) Clerical US 40 Lay-out 3100% 1 LAB 3 HQ
16. (Fried 1990) University US 152 Lay-out 33 62% 1 CFD 2 MQ
17. (Fried et al. 2001) University US 93 Lay-out 33 NA 1 CFD 1 MQ
18. (Hedge 1984) Government US 1,332 Lay-out 3365% 1 CFD 2 MQ
19. (Jaakkola and Heinonen 1995) Government Finland 122 Lay-out 371% 1 CFD 2 MQ
20. (Keller 1986) R&D US 221 Lay-out 33 90% 1 CFD 2 MQ
21. (Kupritz 1998) Designers US 89 Lay-out 3100% 1 CFD 2 MQ
22. (Kurvers et al. 2001) NA US 7,822 Lay-out 3NA 0 CFD 1 MQ
23. (Marans and Yan 1989) Diverse Australia 1,000 Lay-out 380% 0 CFD 1 MQ
24. (O’Brien and Pembroke 1982) Government Australia 195 Lay-out 33 76% 1 CFD 2 MQ
25. (O’Neill 1994) Diverse US 541 Lay-out 333 77% 1 CFD 2 MQ
26. (Oldham and Brass 1979) Publisher US 5 128 Lay-out 33 91% 1 PFD 3 HQ
27. (Oldham and Rotchford 1983) University US 114 Lay-out 33 100% 1 CFD 2 MQ
28. (Oldham and Fried 1987) University US 24 109 Lay-out 33 96% 1 PFD 3 HQ
(continued)
The effect of old and new office concepts on health and performance 125
Table 3 (continued)
Setting of study Follow-up Independent
Dependent
variable Statist. Study Total
Reference number (reference) population Country in months N variable W S L Response test design score Quality
29. (Oldham 1988) Insurance US 3 65 Lay-out 333 51% 1 PFD 3 HQ
30. (Oldham et al. 1991) Government US 298 Lay-out 33 100% 1 CFD 2 MQ
31. (Rishi et al. 2000) Bank India 85 Lay-out 33 100% 1 CFD 2 MQ
32. (Sundstrom et al. 1980) Diverse US 213 Lay-out 333 74% 1 CFD 2 MQ
33. (Sundstrom et al. 1982b) Diverse US 228 Lay-out 33 76% 1 CFD 2 MQ
34. (Sundstrom et al. 1982a) NA US 2 70 Lay-out 354% 1 PFD 3 HQ
35. (Sutton and Rafaeli 1987) University US 109 Lay-out 33 100% 1 CFD 2 MQ
36. (Szilagy and Holland 1980) Petrol company US 4 96 Lay-out 33 100% 1 PFD 3 HQ
37. (Wollmann et al. 1994) University US 293 Lay-out 359% 1 CFD 2 MQ
38. (Zahn 1992) Industry US 45 Lay-out 348% 1 CFD 1 MQ
39. (Zalesny and Farace 1987) Government US 11 247 Lay-out 352% 1 PFD 3 HQ
40. (Zhou et al. 1998) University US 75 Lay-out 362% 1 CFD 2 MQ
41. (Allen and Gerstberger 1973) Product engineers US 12 10 Use 333 41% 1 PFD 2 MQ
42. (Barten 2001) Bank Netherlands 11 72 Use 33 33% 0 RFD 0 LQ
43. (Beunder 2000) Bank Netherlands 12 30 Use 3375% 0 RFD 1 MQ
44. (Boerstra and Raue 2000) Government Netherlands 6 19 Use 358% 0 RFD 1 MQ
45. (De Jonge and Rutte 1999) Insurance Netherlands 24 122 Use 333 20% 1 PFD 2 MQ
46. (Heerink and Vermeulen 2001) Accountancy Netherlands NA 211 Use 333 53% 0 RFD 1 MQ
47. (Van den Brink 2000) Bank Netherlands 13 159 Use 363% 0 RFD 1 MQ
48. (Van Wijk 1999) NA Netherlands 5 257 Use 330% 0 RFD 0 LQ
49. (Vos and Dewulf 1998) Government Netherlands 24 152 Use 366% 0 RFD 1 MQ
Note. NA = information is not available; Follow-up = duration of follow-up in months; N = number of participants; Independent variable: location = workplace location;
lay-out = workplace lay-out; use = workplace use; Dependent variable: W = work conditions (job demands or job resources); S =short-term reactions; L = long-term
reactions; Response = percentage of office workers who participated; Statist. test = the adequacy of the statistical test that was used in the study (0 = insufficient;
1 = sufficient); Study design: LAB = laboratory design; PFD = prospective field design; RFS = retrospective field design; CFD = cross-sectional field design; Total
score = the number of quality criteria that were fulfilled (0– 3); Quality: HQ =high-quality study, MQ = medium-quality study, LQ= low-quality study (excluded from the
review).
126 E. M. de Croon et al.
failed to establish an association between teleworking and performance. Thus, there is
insufficient evidence to conclude on the effect of office location on long-term reactions.
5.2. Effects of office lay-out on work conditions and short- and long-term reactions
5.2.1. Effects of office lay-out on work conditions. Twenty-four studies examined the
effect of workplace openness, or distance between workplaces on cognitive workload,
communication, interpersonal relations, autonomy, or psychological privacy (references
6, 7, 9 14, 17, 18, 21, 24 27, 29, 31 34, 36, 38 – 40 in table 3). Table 4 indicates there is
strong evidence that working in open workplaces reduces the office worker’s psychological
privacy and there is limited evidence that working in open workplaces intensifies cognitive
workload and worsens interpersonal relations. As is also shown in table 4, inconsistent
Table 4. Results of the synthesis of evidence with regard to the effect of office lay-out
(workplace openness and distance between workstations) on work conditions (cognitive
workload, communication, interpersonal relations, autonomy and privacy).
Studies, first author
(reference number)
Association
(reference number)
Evidence
(direction)
Effect of workplace openness on:
Cognitive workload 2 HQ: Block (7), Oldham (26) Positive (7, 26) Limited (positive)
5 MQ: Becker (6), Crouch (14),
Kupritz (21), O’Neil (25), Oldham (27)
No (25, 27);
Positive (6, 14, 21)
Communication 3 HQ: Oldhdam (26), Sundstrom (34),
Zalesny (39)
No (26, 34);
Negative (39)
Inconsistent
3 MQ: Cosijn (12), O’Neil (25),
Oldham (27)
No (27);
Negative (12, 25)
Interpersonal relations 1 HQ: Oldham (26) Negative (26) Limited (negative)
3 MQ: Brennan (9), Fried (17),
Oldham (27)
No (17);
Negative (9, 27)
Autonomy 2 HQ: Oldham (29), Zalesny (39) No (29, 39) Inconsistent
2 MQ: Oldham (27) Negative (27)
Psychological privacy 4 HQ: Brookes (10), Oldham (29),
Sundstrom (34), Zalesny (39)
Negative (10, 29,
34, 39)
Strong (negative)
10 MQ: Becker (6), Carlopio (11),
Crouch (12), Duvall-Early (14),
Kupritz (21), O’Neil (25), Oldham (27),
Rishi (31), Sundstrom (32, 33)
Negative (6, 11, 12,
14,
21, 25, 27, 31, 32,
33)
Effect of distance between work stations on:
Cognitive workload 2 MQ: O’Neil (25), Oldham (27) Negative (25, 27) Limited (negative)
1 HQ: Oldham (29) Negative (29)
Communication 1 HQ: Szilagyi (36) Negative (36) Inconsistent
2 MQ: Oldham (27), Zahn (38) No (27);
Negative (38)
Inconsistent
Autonomy 1 HQ: Szilagyi (36) Negative (36) Inconsistent
1 MQ: Oldham (27) No (27)
Psychological privacy 1 HQ: Oldham (29) Positive (29) Limited (positive)
4 MQ: Duvall-Early (14),
Oldham (27), Rishi (31),
Sundstrom (32)
No (32);
Positive (14, 27, 31)
Note. HQ = high-quality study; MQ = medium-quality study.
The effect of old and new office concepts on health and performance 127
evidence was found for an effect of workplace openness on communication and
autonomy. Moreover, there is limited evidence that a close distance between workplaces
intensifies the office worker’s cognitive workload and reduces his/her psychological
privacy. Finally, there is inconsistent evidence for an effect of distance between
workstations on communication and autonomy.
5.2.2. Effects of office lay-out on short-term reactions. Twenty-one studies examined
the effect of workplace openness or distance between workstations on short-term
reactions (references 7, 9, 11, 15 – 17, 20, 23 – 33, 35 – 37 in table 3). From table 5 it can be
seen there is strong evidence that working in open workplaces reduces job satisfaction.
Table 5 also shows there is inconsistent evidence for an effect of close distance between
workstations on job satisfaction and for an effect of workplace openness and distance
between workstations on crowding stress.
5.2.3. Effects of office lay-out on long-term reactions. Sixteen studies examined the
effect of workplace openness or distance between workstations on long-term reactions
(references 4, 5, 8, 9, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 28 30, 32, 35 in table 3). The evidence
synthesis shows there is inconsistent evidence for an effect of workplace openness and
distance between work stations on performance and health.
5.3. Effects of office use on work conditions and short- and long-term reactions
5.3.1. Effects of office use on work conditions. Seven medium quality studies examined
the effect of office use on work conditions (references 41, 43 47, 49 in table 3). Synthesis
of the evidence shows there is limited evidence that desk-sharing improves communication
Table 5. Results of the synthesis of evidence with regard to the effect of office lay-out
(workplace openness and distance between workstations) on short-term reactions (crowding
stress and job satisfaction).
Studies, first author
(reference number)
Association
(reference number)
Evidence
(direction)
Effect of workplace openness on:
Crowding stress 1 HQ: Oldham (29) Positive (29) Inconsistent
5 MQ: Carlopio (11), Oldham (27), Rishi
(31), Sundstrom (32), Zhou (34)
No (11, 27, 34);
Positive (31, 32)
Job satisfaction 4 HQ: Block (7), Oldham (26, 28, 29) Negative (7, 26, 28, 29) Strong
(negative)
6 MQ: Oldham (27, 30), Rishi (31),
Sundstrom (32, 33), Sutton (35)
No (27, 32, 33);
Negative (30, 31, 35)
Effect of distance between work stations on:
Crowding stress 1 HQ: Oldham (29) Negative (29) Inconsistent
5 MQ: O’Brien (24), Oldham (27), Rishi
(31), Sundstrom (32), Zhou (34)
No (24, 31, 32, 34);
Negative (27)
Job satisfaction 2 HQ: Oldham (29), Szilagyi (36) Positive (29),
Negative (36)
Inconsistent
9 MQ: Fried (17), Keller (20), O’Brien
(24), Oldham (27, 30), Rishi (31),
Sundstrom (32, 39), Sutton (35)
No (20, 27, 31, 32, 39);
Positive (17, 24, 30, 35)
Note. HQ = high-quality study; MQ = medium-quality study.
128 E. M. de Croon et al.
between office workers. In addition, inconsistent evidence was found that desk-sharing
intensifies cognitive workload.
5.3.2. Effects of office use on short-term reactions. Three studies investigated the effect
of office use, i.e. desk-sharing, on short-term reactions (references 41, 45, 46 in table 3).
Due to the small number of studies the evidence is insufficient to make inferences about
the effect of office use on short-term reactions.
5.3.3. Effects of office use on long-term reactions. Four studies examined the effect of
office use, namely, desk-sharing, on long-term reactions (references 41, 43, 45, 46 in table
3). Due to insufficient evidence no inferences about the effect of desk-sharing on long-term
reactions can be made.
6. Discussion
6.1. Effects of office innovation
This review failed to provide evidence for an effect of office location, namely, teleworking
at home, on work conditions, short- and long-term reactions. In contrast, evidence was
provided for an effect of office lay-out on work conditions and short-term reactions. In
particular, strong evidence was found that working in open workplaces reduces the office
worker’s privacy and job satisfaction. Also, limited evidence was found that close distance
between workstations intensifies cognitive workload and reduces psychological privacy. In
accordance with the conceptual model (see figure 1), therefore, office concepts do affect the
office worker’s job demands, job resources and short-term reactions. More specifically,
consistent with overload theory (Desor 1972; Oldham and Fried 1987), open workplaces
and high-density offices increase cognitive workload, it is thought, due to too many people
and interactions and too close proximity to others. Consequently, office workers have
difficulty concentrating, react negatively to interactions and become dissatisfied with their
job. Furthermore, compatible with privacy theory (Sundstrom et al. 1980), the lack of
acoustic and visual isolation in open workplaces diminishes the control over interaction
with others and hinders workers in discussing personal topics in confidence.
Also in agreement with the conceptual model, office use, in terms of desk-sharing, was
found to stimulate communication between office workers. In particular, the evidence
synthesis provided limited evidence that desk-sharing improves this job resource.
Presumably, office workers who share desks need to change workplaces repeatedly. This
increases the opportunity to interact and, as a consequence, improves communication
(Vos and Van der Voordt 2002).
In contrast to the conceptual model’s propositions, inconsistent evidence
was provided for the effect of office lay-out on communication, autonomy, crowding
stress, performance and health. Possibly, person-, work-, or environment-related
variables moderate effects of the office lay-out. Indeed, person-related variables such as
low need for privacy (Oldham 1988), high screening ability (Fried 1990; Oldham et al.
1991) and low organizational tenure (Fried et al. 2001) have been found to buffer harmful
office effects. Furthermore, work-related variables, such as low task complexity (Block
1989), and environment-related variables, such as favourable lighting and air conditions
(Hedge 1984; Adams and Zuckerman 1991), may protect office workers from negative
office lay-out effects. Integration of these variables into the conceptual model may
improve its predictive validity.
The effect of old and new office concepts on health and performance 129
6.2. Scientific considerations
Four aspects of this review should be commented upon to appreciate the practical
implications of the findings. First, as mentioned briefly in the introduction, other aspects
of the office plan may influence office worker health and performance. These aspects
include characteristics of desks and chairs (de Looze et al. 2004), computers, monitors
and keyboards (Briner and Hockey 1994; Hedge and Powers 1995), lighting conditions
(Hedge 2000), colour and material use (Carlopio 1996; Gifford 1997), thermal conditions
(Vasmatzidis et al. 2002) and the indoor air quality (Menzies and Bourbeau 1997;
Kolstad et al. 2002; Burge 2004). To obtain a full picture of office effects, these
characteristics should also be considered.
Second, although a large number of publications about effects of office concepts were
found, the number of scientific studies with a prospective or laboratory design and
adequate response was small. This restricted the opportunity to make inferences about
several hypothesized office effects. Research that addresses the effects of office location
(i.e. telework) and office use (i.e. desk-sharing), as well as research that examines health
effects of office innovation in particular, is scarce. Considering the popularity of telework
and desk-sharing and the high prevalence of stress-related health complaints such as
fatigue and musculoskeletal complaints among office workers, this gap in knowledge is
remarkable.
Third, this review examined the effect of innovative offices on work conditions and
health and performance of office workers without taking the implementation process into
account. Conversations with experts involved in the development of new office concepts,
however, reveal that office concepts are often implemented without the participation of
the office worker. Research has demonstrated that low participation during implementa-
tion of innovations may negatively affect the worker’s attitude (Baruch and Hind 2003).
Presumably, the involvement of office workers will promote the successful implementa-
tion of innovative offices.
Fourth, the integration of the study quality in the synthesis of the evidence (Slavin
1995) allowed more weight to be given to results obtained in high-quality studies when
reaching conclusions, as compared to results obtained in medium quality studies. The
best-evidence-methodology, therefore, is considered a strong aspect of this review.
6.3. Practical implications
The findings of this review carry practical implications for ergonomists involved in the
development and implementation of innovative offices. First, the unfavourable effect of
workplace openness implies that, to safeguard the well-being of the office worker,
innovative offices should provide sufficient shelter from unwanted acoustic and visual
stimuli. To this end, innovative offices should be supplied with an adequate number of
enclosed, sound-insulated workstations. In addition, tall, enclosed or frosted glass sound-
insulating partitions between open workplaces, textile floor covering, acoustic ceiling tiles
and printer cabinets might be applied for this purpose. Second, the moderating effect of
person-, work- and environment-related variables implies that detrimental office effects
might be diminished by the application of measures directed at these variables.
Ergonomists might, for instance, prevent unfavourable effects of open and crowded
offices by improving lighting and climate conditions. In addition, attention might be paid
to the workplace lay-out of high tenure office workers who have a higher need for privacy
and low screening-ability, and are engaged in complex work. Third, the observed limited
130 E. M. de Croon et al.
evidence for an effect of desk-sharing on communication suggests that companies might
improve organizational effectiveness by application of this office concept.
6.4. Conclusions
Strong evidence was established that working in open workplaces reduces the office
worker’s psychological privacy and job satisfaction. Additionally, some limited evidence
was found that: (a) working in open workplaces intensifies cognitive workload and
worsens interpersonal relations; (b) a close distance between workstations intensifies
cognitive workload and reduces the office worker’s psychological privacy; and (c) desk-
sharing improves communication. These findings indicate that innovative offices may
affect the organization’s cost-efficiciency as well as the office worker’s work conditions
and well-being. Therefore, the effect of innovative offices on the office worker’s work
conditions and well-being should be considered during the development and introduction
of innovative offices.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Jaap Hanekamp of the Heidelberg Appeal Netherlands
Foundation, Chris Kuiper, Lector at the Institute for Work and Health, Academy of
Rotterdam and Wim Pullen, Managing Director of the Center for People and Buildings
at the University of Delft for their support during this study. We are also grateful to John
Bergs of BenR advisers, Atze Boerstra of Boerstra Indoor Climate Consultancy, Ernst
Koningsveld of TNO Work and Employment, Professor Annelies van Bronswijk of the
University of Eindhoven and Theo Van der Voordt of the Department of Architecture at
the University of Delft for their help during the literature search.
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The effect between the workplace and work success is a black box whose mechanisms have so far received little theoretical substantiation. In the explanation of the importance of corporate real estate and its management for the success of companies, the influence of real estate on the work productivity of employees through the physical workplace is shown. However, the overall picture has not yet been fully elaborated and the fragmentary knowledge is only partially suitable for attributing organizational outcomes to the characteristics of the physical working environment. Without sufficient empirical data and a solid theoretical foundation for physical working environment studies, it is not possible to draw conclusions with sufficient certainty about the impact of working environments on organizational outcomes. The fact that millions of people worldwide are working from home for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore the impact of the home office environment on business success. This study aims to contribute to filling this research gap by further investigating the impact of the physical working environment at home on productivity by building on the Environmental Demands–Resources model. Therefore, the research goal is to determine which of the four included demands and resources (isolation, family–work interference, equipment/facilities, and building) have an impact on employee burnout and satisfaction, and how this impact affects employee productivity. Partial least squares structural equation modeling is used to analyze a German survey sample (n = 429). The results suggest that the four included workplace characteristics have significant influence, with equipment/facilities and building increasing satisfaction and isolation and family–work interference increasing burnout. Equipment/facilities is identified as the most important factor affecting productivity in the home office. Through this study, a contribution is made to establish a more inclusive and integrative framework for physical working environment research. In addition, the results show that workspace characteristics have an impact on productivity. Far beyond the pandemic, the impact of changes in workspace design on employee perceptions and organizational performance will be important to corporate real estate management practice.
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Zusammenfassung Der vorliegende Beitrag in der Zeitschrift Gruppe. Interaktion. Organisation (GIO) beschäftigt sich mit der Entstehung hybrider Arbeitsumgebungen für Wissensarbeiter. Durch die Covid19-Pandemie zeichnet sich zukünftig eine Koexistenz des Arbeitens im Büro und aus dem Homeoffice ab. Durch dieses hybride Arbeiten entstehen drei Herausforderungen für Unternehmen: eine veränderte Rolle des Bürogebäudes, veränderte Bedürfnisse der Nutzer des Büros und sich verändernde Arbeitsaktivitäten, die die kontinuierliche Anpassung von Arbeitsumgebungen notwendig machen. Dieser Beitrag beschreibt die Gestaltung einer New Work-Arbeitsumgebung anhand eines Fallbeispiels, welches diesen drei Herausforderungen begegnet. Diese werden jeweils vor dem Hintergrund bestehender wissenschafticher Erkenntnisse diskutiert. Es zeichnet sich ab, dass physische Büroumgebungen für hybrid arbeitende Mitarbeitende als Ort für Interaktion, Kollaboration und Unternehmenskultur eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Weiterhin werden Gestaltungsoptionen für Nutzerzentrierung und Partizipation in der Entstehungsphase sowie für eine kontinuierliche Anpassung im Regelbetrieb der Büroräume beschrieben. Der vorliegende Beitrag bereichert die bestehenden Erkenntnisse zur Auswirkung von Arbeitsumgebungen um einen tieferen Blick auf den Entstehungsprozess als solchem und bietet Organisationen Impulse zur Gestaltung hybrider Arbeitsumgebungen.
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Purpose This research aims to analyse difficulties experienced by Brazilian managers in coordinating teams working from home during the coronavirus disease (2019) COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach The methodological strategy used was a survey with 39 managers who led teams working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven difficulties indicated by current literature were analysed using a fuzzy scale. First, a hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) approach was used to group managers according to managers' similarities and capacity to infer the difficulties. Responses of each group identified were weighted considering the capacity to assess the theme. In the sequence, data were analysed via frequencies and the fuzzy technique for order of preference by similarity to ideal solution (TOPSIS) approach and difficulties were ordered. Findings Comparatively, the main difficulties evidenced are (1) to reconcile personal and professional life tasks in the same place; (2) to motivate collaborators in a period when social isolation affect employee's mental health and (3) to keep team members integrated and working within the activities scope in a virtual environment. Originality/value The findings present in this paper contribute to theory and practice. For theory, this article contributes to the knowledge on WFH and leadership, evidencing in a comparatively way the difficulties that are experienced by managers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers in future studies can better analyse these difficulties. For practice, managers who conduct managers' teams remotely can use the information to analyse teams' practices and improve performance critically. This was an atypical moment of humanity, and different aspects need to be considered by managers compared with previous periods.
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The study assessed the role of perceived and actual workspace characteristics as correlates of work satisfaction among 85 bank employees of Bhopal (INDIA). Employees of different cadre filled perception of work environment and work satisfaction Questionnaires. Actual workspace characteristics like distance from entrance, supervisor, Co-workers etc., were assessed by direct measures with the help of measuring tape. Work satisfaction was found to be positively correlated with pleasant workspace, distance from entrance, distance from supervisor and negatively correlated with crowding and noise, privacy of workspace, work -complexity and distance from co-workers. Multiple correlational analysis revealed that 69% of the variance in work satisfaction is to be accounted for by perceived and actual workspace characteristics. Results and their implications were discussed in the framework of environment - behaviour theories.
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State-of-the-art research in the field is reviewed with emphasis on the impacts of physical environmental quality on worker satisfaction and job performance. The review focuses on three main topic areas: physical comfort and task instrumentality, privacy and social interaction, and symbolic identification. Within each topic area, recommendations are made for planning and design. The article concludes with a discussion of emerging issues in office design and evaluation, including the effects of technological advances on worker satisfac tion and performance.