The Office - An Explorative Study Architectural Design's Impact on Health, Job Satisfaction & Well-being
Abstract: This doctoral thesis examines the office environment’s influence on employees’ perception oftheir workplaces, their organizations and their job satisfaction, as well as their health and wellbeing.It is based on an empirical study of 491 office employees from twenty-six companies anddivisions in large companies. Seven office types, defined by their architectural and functionalfeatures, are represented in the study group: cell-office, shared-room office, small open planoffice, medium-sized open plan office, large open plan office, flex-office and combi-office. Theresearch has its basis in architecture, although an interdisciplinary approach using organizationaland management theory, environmental psychology, and social and stress medicine has beenemployed. Qualitative (Articles I & V) and quantitative methods(Articles II & IV) were used.The thesis also contains an explorative, review article. Thus it comprises all in all five articles.Article I is an analysis of the importance of architectural quality for employees´ perceptionand experience of the office using Lynch’s method (1960) developed to measure inhabitants’perception of architectural quality in cities. The study shows that in the office the experienceto a high degree is independent of both the scale of the office and office type; instead it isdetermined by the quality of the plan layout combined with the quality of other design features.It also shows Lynch’s method to be useful in foreseeing where the elements that reinforce‘imageability’ will most likely appear in an office environment.Article II investigates employees’ environmental satisfaction focusing on:1) ambient factors; 2) noise and privacy; and 3) design-related factors. The results, based onregression models with age, gender, job rank and line of business as additional covariates,show office type as a factor with a statistically significant impact on satisfaction with the officeenvironment. Employees in cell-offices are prominently most satisfied, followed by those inflex-offices, cell-offices rate low only on social aspects of design-related factors. A major findingis the internal differences between office types where employees share workspace and facilitieswith lowest satisfaction in medium-sized and large open plan offices.Article III is a review article that analyzes the employees’ office experiences in two ways:1) by framing the physical work environment’s influence on employees into the model oforganizational theorist Davis (1994); and 2) by categorizing the office experience into twogroups based on the nature of the experience and problems related to them. The results of theemperical study presented in Article II are the basis for the discussion in this article.Article IV examines employees’ health, well-being and job satisfaction. A multivariateanalysis applied to the study sample and equivalent to that of Article II shows significantly higherrisks for ill health and poor well-being in medium-sized and small open plan offices, comparedespecially with cell-office. In medium-sized open plan and combi-offices the employees evincethe lowest job satisfaction. The best chance for good health status and job satisfaction is in cellofficesand flex-offices.Article V examines the office architecture´s importance for employees’ perception of theirown workplaces and organizations based on the two key components of architecture—theaesthetical and functional dimensions. The results show that overall the employees had positiveexperiences of their office environments. These mainly concerned the aesthetical dimension,whereas the negative comments dealt with the functional dimension. The aesthetical dimensionappears not only to set the agenda for employees’ perception of the workplace and organizationas a whole, but also for the perception of the functional dimensions. The functional dimensionswere only in focus when the workstation and its proximate area were discussed.
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