May 18 2022 our network celebrates its first anniversary. Exactly 5 years ago, we held our first ever board meeting to get this network started with workplace researchers from across the globe. The board hopes to eat cake with you in Milan at #TWR2022 to celebrate this! Below you find a short blog written to celebrate our anniversary, with thoughts from some of these board members on why they like TWR so much.
People, workplace and management – research through disciplines
The Transdisciplinary Workplace Research (TWR) network was initiated in 2017. Its intention is to bring together workplace researchers and professionals from all relevant disciplines to share their insights and ideas to ensure evidence-based workplace development. The network is celebrating its 5-year anniversary on the 18th of May 2022. Let’s have a look at the very first thoughts of the board in 2017.
The founder and chair of the Transdisciplinary Workplace Research (TWR) network is Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek from the Netherlands. She is an Associate Professor in corporate real estate (CRE) and workplace at the Department of the Built Environment at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). “The only way to provide real evidence for the business case of workplace interventions is by getting involved in transdisciplinary research initiatives”, she states. Therefore, she approached a selection of workplace researchers from different disciplines to form a board for the TWR network. The following people joined Rianne in the first TWR board that jointly have setup the network: Remi Ayoko, Derek Clements-Croome, Alison Hirst, Jan-Gerard Hoendervanger, Annette Kämpf-Dern, Rachel Morrison, Ingrid Nappi, Suvi Nenonen, Cheuk Fan Ng, Kerstin Sailer, Sara Wilkinson, and Mascha Will-Zocholl. Later, others followed.
Suvi Nenonen from Finland, currently working as a senior expert in University of Helsinki, shared the significance of transdisciplinary approach to workplace research. Her background is in social sciences and she conducted her PhD in 2005 to Helsinki University of Technology. “According to my experience of transdisciplinary research work, it is not easy to find the common language and shared understanding across the disciplines. Communication between different groups and sciences is challenging. TWR network is one potential tool to share the knowledge and increase the common understanding”, says Suvi about her motivation to engage with the TWR network. In 2018 the first conference took place in Finland, hosted by Suvi and her colleagues. Important knowledge and experiences were shared across disciplines regarding methodological challenges, building design and the study of people and their behaviour in their work environment.
Most of the inaugural board members joined this first conference, including Kerstin Sailer, professor in the Sociology of Architecture in The Bartlett School of Architecture, United Kingdom. She investigates the impact of spatial design on people and social behaviours inside a range of buildings. Her research interests combine complex buildings, workplace environments and space usage with social networks, organisational theory and organisational behaviour. She states: “The theory of space syntax provides a way to formalise the connection between spatial configuration and human behaviour. I am happy to share the research results how the configuration of office space shapes the activities of people and I am eager to learn how other disicplines approach the people-building connection – that is the attractor of TWR-network for me.”
Also present in Finland, was Remi Ayoko, associate Professor of Management at the University of Queensland Business School, Australia. “My research interests include the physical and virtual environment of work, open plan offices, conflict management, emotions, leadership, diversity, teamwork and employee territoriality.” Especially, she and her research team (in the Next Generation of Workplaces) investigate how employee interactions and wellbeing are impacted by differing workspaces. “The TWR network brokers new cross-disciplinary insights into people and organizational issues, Remi adds. “It also allows me the opportunity to find new research partners with similar interests for collaboration”, she continues.
What has happened in five years
The network now consists of over 300 researchers from universities and other public and private organisations involved in workplace research on several different continents. With its roots in Europe, TWR quickly expanded to North America and Oceania, and there is already some interest from the other continents as well. Besides the first conference in Finland, another one was organized as a hybrid conference, by German board members Annette Kämpf-Dern and Mascha Will-Zocholl. The third conference will be held physically in Milan in September 2022, organized by Chiara Tagliaro and her colleagues at Politecnico di Milano. In addition, several webinars have been organized over the years, to share knowledge. The TWR website has also evolved to include insights into PhD studies on workplaces and their users and managers at different universities and a TWR LinkedIn group was created.
Stronger together – wiser with diverse perspectives
Workplace research is still fragmented. This is the reason why the TWR network was created and hopefully over the next decades it will help decrease this fragmentation. More evidence is needed to support business cases of end-users for investing in workplace quality, and both physical and digital workplace matter. We need to increase awareness of users to how buildings affect them and discover how to deal with personal differences. The last two years the global crisis of COVID-19 has provided opportunities to pilot and practice new working methods and topics. Designing, drafting, and testing new structures, processes and practices is as important as the change management of transformation in the new situation – the workplace research agenda is full of interesting research questions for the TWR-network to respond to.