Chiara Tagliaro’s PhD thesis proposes a framework of key performance indicators (KPIs) to support decision-making processes in the design, management, and use of next-generation workplaces. Through case study analysis, the main workplace users are identified in the following stakeholder’s groups: Company owner, President, and CEO; Financial administration; Corporate Real Estate Management; Human Resources Management; Facility Management; Engineering and space planning; Information Technology; Executives and managers; Employees; Consultants, collaborators, and interns; and Customers and visitors.
Thanks to a Delphi process participated by all these users, both well-established and newly created indicators are elaborated into a holistic framework, covering (i) financial/organizational, (ii) environmental/spatial, and (iii) social impacts of the workplace. The resulting 33 KPIs include a wide range of complementary areas: environmental quality, building operation and management, space usage, business effectiveness, costs, value/return/yield, productivity/ways of working, user attitude, and staff characteristics. In conclusion, the proposed framework allows for continuous monitoring of workplace performance from an interdisciplinary perspective.
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Link to related papers/books:
Minou Weijs-Perrée’s PhD thesis identifies business center concepts analyzes the influence of characteristics of these business center concepts on networking and knowledge sharing behavior between users of business centers. Four types of business center concepts are distinguished, namely regular business centers, serviced offices, coworking offices and incubators. In addition, the results of this thesis showed positive relationships between spaces, namely a canteen, event space, lounge room and meeting space, and the perceived frequency that people from different organizations socially interact. Also, a negative relationship was found between a cellular office and sharing tacit knowledge. In addition, people who work in an open-plan office have more face-to-face interactions in a meeting space compared to people working in other office concepts. These results will help real estate owners/developers to make well informed decisions about the type of business centers that they want to develop or invest in and to respond optimally to the needs and preferences of the users in terms of knowledge sharing and networking.
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Maral Babapour’s PhD thesis examines why some Activity-based Flexible Offices (AFOs) work while others do not, based on five qualitative case studies conducted in Sweden. The thesis concludes that AFOs work provided (i) they match individuals’ personal circumstances and work-related preconditions; (ii) they facilitate shared use of spaces through well-designed rules, workspaces and instruments; (iii) individuals’ appropriation processes reach a stable phase where mismatches are resolved and a fruitful symbiosis is achieved; and (iv) the organisations’ processes of adopting AFOs is successful during the planning and the post-relocation routinising stages, leading to a collective sense of ownership among employees.
Link to papers:
During the first TWR conference in 2018, all delegates wrote down challenges/learning point and contributions of the papers that were presented at the end of the paper sessions. Analyses of all these notes, gives a clear summary of the challenges that the workplace research field still has to face. TWR intends to take up these challenges with the network and present relevant studies at TWR2020 in Weimar (call for papers will be sent in June 2019).
Challenges/learning points for workplace research
A first challenge for the field is to provide more input for evidence based design. Several researchers wrote down that, despite our best attempts, the evidence base is still relatively limited, particularly for papers with objective measures. Workplace research is still fragmented – the reason why the TWR network was created – and in some subareas in a nascent state. Clearly, more evidence is needed to support business cases of end-users for investing in workplace quality. Additionally, it was identified that we need to increase awareness of users to how buildings affect them and discover how to deal with personal differences.
A second challenge is the need to perform more meta analyses. Communication between different groups and sciences is challenging. Can we combine the many case studies on workplace concepts into a meta-analysis? How can we deal with the difficulty in extracting important information from individual papers and the fact that different papers have different definitions for office types and employee outcomes (e.g. health, productivity). There is no consistency in how databases are set up. In the least it is important that all papers clearly describe the type of office they studied. Perhaps the field is also ready to start working towards more coherence in methods and adopting each others’ list of measures, to be able to create valid and tested scales like in other more developed research fields (e.g. psychology). Another relevant question posed was whether we have access to the right journals once we start seeking outside our own discipline. What happens if we start comparing experimental results with contextual real-life situations and find conflicting evidence? How can we combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies for a contextual and comprehensive understanding?
Third challenge is the need for more holistic models. It is a challenge to work with holistic models, while at the same time containing the amount of variables to measure limited (especially in surveys). For example, gender, age, job character, personality and the social work environment are powerful predictions that should be controlled for, and more and more control variables are being identified. It appears that personalities might even be more important than generations, which is focused on in practice now. If all measures meet requirements for rigorous analysis, such models can be important in identifying the most relevant variables to include in future research and in decision making in practice.
Several detailed methodological challenges were posed as well, regarding how to study people, place and how to deal with data:
And last, some specific research gaps were written down, such as individual differences in the necessary balance between concentration and communication, studying mood and reasons for certain behavior, how to manage paradoxical emotions, territoriality and the role of emotions in the workplace. And also, how to change habits and how to manage the process of change (user participation, user engagement).
Contributions at TWR2018
Logically, not all challenges above were addressed fully at TWR 2018. But steps were made and important knowledge and experiences was shared across disciplines. Regarding methodological challenges, we saw interesting studies in Tampere where some were able to use very large datasets, showed findings of extensive literature reviews to increase confidence relative to individual studies and/or used multivelel modelling to test both individual-level and building-level characteristics in one analysis. We saw some very rigorous analyses and promising research tools such as space syntax, stated choice modelling and technology/apps to measure space or personal preferences and behaviour. And we also saw the value of qualitative approaches to study tacit topics more in depth and interesting combinations of methods.
Regarding building design, some contributions and new insights were that open plans make people sit less, but that this was the only positive thing found about them in a literature review. It was claimed that the office is never finished (work in progress) and that buildings are predictions and predictions can be wrong. Also, it again became clear that different kinds of work require different kinds of spaces and awareness needs to be built to set the right standards.
Regarding the study of people in their environment, studies at TWR2018 showed the importance of psychology on productivity and employee satisfaction. The perception of workplace quality is very important, especially regarding aspects such as control and territoriality. We also saw interesting behavioral studies regarding group behaviour and differences between rational and emotional behaviour.
To be continued at TWR2020 in Germany.