Office Landscapes for Well-being. Interrelations between employee, activities, spatial attributes and context

Abstract: The study of employee well-being in relation to office landscapes has gained greater interest in the recent years, although research on the construct of well-being has been increasingly developing in the field of Positive Psychology since the 1960s. However, the impact of office landscapes on employee well-being has often been addressed from perspectives such as health, satisfaction, happiness, comfort, etc. This has turned well-being into a popular and fuzzy term that numerous office studies use with diverse results, but fewer address it in detail. Furthermore, the prolific research in Positive Psychology lacks consensus on what characterises the construct of well-being and a unified criterion for its operational definition. In this thesis, a hybrid approach to hedonic and eudaimonic well-being theories has been chosen to study in depth the interrelations between employee well-being and office landscapes. Besides, these interrelations emerge from the use that employees make of their office landscapes to carry out their daily activities. Thus, employee well-being is studied in the context of office landscape use. For this venture, Activity Theory has been chosen as the complementary framework that enables an explanation of the role of office landscapes in mediating employees’ activities and subsequent influences on well-being. The research presented here comprises two literature reviews and an in-depth case study in which a mixed method research approach with emphasis on qualitative data was adopted. The findings show that spatial attributes of the office landscape influenced employee hedonic and eudaimonic well-being by enabling or hindering uses of the landscape. Likewise, the use, disuse or misuse of spaces was influenced by employee perceptions on what was pleasurable and supportive, or not, for carrying out their daily activities. In this sense, the experiences of use and well-being overlap and are central to explaining the results, but contextual aspects such as former employee experiences at different offices, relocation processes, social environment, and employees’ activity patterns also influenced employees’ insights. As a result of integrating well-being theories and the principles of Activity Theory in my research, a tentative framework is proposed for the study of employee well-being in relation to office landscapes. In addition, the weight of employee environmental mastery in the overall experience of well-being suggests that further research exploring design opportunities to improve the mastery over office landscapes has a great potential to enhance employee well-being at work.