Activity-based Flexible Office work environments : Design and implementation processes and outcomes

Sammanfattning: Background: In recent years, there has been a reported increase in organizations relocating to Activity-based Flexible Offices (A-FOs) worldwide. The idea of A-FOs is to offer work conditions suitable for the workforce’s tasks and individual preferences. Benefits of the A-FO include employee autonomy, privacy and inter- and intra-team communication. However, there are reports within Swedish media on reduced performance, increased dissatisfaction, injustice, and workplace avoidance amongst employees occupying A-FOs. Added to which empirical research supporting A-FOs claimed benefits are scarce with inconsistent results.Aim: The aim of this thesis is to explore and investigate perceptions of workspace, work conditions, work environment satisfaction, and perceived performance in A-FOs (aim of Studies I-V). Additionally, the sub-aims are to explore and investigate associations with underlying factors such as design and implementation process factors including methods suggestions (aims of Studies II, IV & VI), physical workspace factors (aim of Study III), desk-sharing and speech policies (aim of Study IV), and organizational preconditions (aim of Study V).  This thesis aims at integrating the contributions of each paper and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.Method: A problem centered, pragmatic approach guided the methodological choices. Two in-depth longitudinal case (n=66 & 46) and two cross-sectional (n=202 & 105) studies were conducted at five single floor A-FOs. A mixed method approach was adopted comprising of six questionnaires, 105 individual interviews, documentation of plan layouts, photographs, planning documents and observations. A third cross-sectional study with 7 additional cases was conducted on 473-715 questionnaire responses.Results & discussion: The results showed that work environment satisfaction and perceived performance can increase after relocation to A-FOs. Reported contributing design and implementation process factors included meaningful objectives for the employees, allocation of time and financial resources, having an organizational focus, employee empowerment, and a methodological approach. A methods framework divided into A-FO design stages is presented that can facilitate the design process of A-FOs. Reported contributing workspace design factors included ample desk-sharing ratios and workspace diversity. Desk-sharing and speech rules were identified: when to remove belongings, allowance to occupy the same workstation in open-plan and enclosed areas on consecutive days, and allocations of areas where speaking on the phone, and verbal interaction with colleagues and interruptions are allowed or forbidden. Organizational preconditions, such as innovative work tasks and an open-plan office type prior to relocation were associated with preference for the A-FO.Conclusion: Design and implementation factors, workspace factors, application of rules and organizational preconditions are possible predictors of work conditions, work environment satisfaction, and perceived performance. A-FOs can be perceived as noisy workplaces that create extra work, decrease interaction as well as increase uncertainty on how to act within the office. However, A-FOs can also be preferred above other office types and be perceived with high work environment satisfaction and perceived performance. This thesis has stressed the importance of a holistic sociotechnical perspective during A-FO implementations, and the importance of employee involvement and empowerment, workspace diversity and desk-sharing policies.