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The association between office design and performance on demanding cognitive tasks
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
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2015 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, ISSN 0272-4944, E-ISSN 1522-9610, Vol. 42, 172-181 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The physical office environment has been shown to be associated with indicators of both health and performance. This study focuses on how memory performance is affected in normal working conditions compared to a quiet baseline (with low amount irrelevant stimuli) in different office types, including cell offices, small open-plan offices, medium-sized open-plan offices and large open-plan offices. The results showed that the drop in performance from the quiet baseline to normal working conditions was higher in larger, compared to smaller, open-plan offices. However, contrary to our hypothesis we found that cell offices might have negative effects on performance comparable to those of large open-plan offices. These results indicate that employees in small open-plan offices, in comparison to large, have better possibilities to conduct cognitively demanding tasks and that cell offices might not be as advantageous as previously thought.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 42, 172-181 p.
Keyword [en]
Office type, Open-plan office, Cognitive performance, Immediate free recall, Individual office rooms, Performance
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118818DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.05.001ISI: 000356741700018Local ID: P-3260OAI: diva2:839791
Available from: 2015-07-05 Created: 2015-07-05 Last updated: 2015-11-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Office type, performance and well-being: A study of how personality and work tasks interact with contemporary office environments and ways of working
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Office type, performance and well-being: A study of how personality and work tasks interact with contemporary office environments and ways of working
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Today, many organisations are adopting offices that have an open design with or without flexible seating. While advocates of open-plan offices propose that these office types lead to cost savings and aid inter and intra-team communication, opponents argue that these office types are associated with decreased performance and worsened health among employees. This thesis investigates how the type of office (cell offices, shared room offices, small open-plan offices, medium-sized open plan offices, large open-plan offices and flex offices) influences employee health and performance, and whether this is different for different personalities and jobs with different concentration demands. Data were gathered by means of surveys and cognitive tests from five organisations with different office types. In Study I (N=1241), the aim was to investigate the main effect of office type on indicators of health and performance and the interaction effect of office type with the need to concentrate in order to carry out work tasks. Office type alone was associated with distraction and cognitive stress in such a way that cell offices were associated with fewest problems, followed by flex offices, while open-plan offices were associated with the most problems. While employees in open-plan offices and employees in flex offices reported more problems as the need for concentration increased, employees in cell offices reported the same level of problems regardless of the need of concentration. Study II (N=527) investigated how performance on a memory test was affected during normal working conditions as compared to a quiet baseline. There was a negative dose-response relationship between the size of the open-plan office environment and the drop in word recall during the normal working condition. However, Study II also showed that individuals working in cell offices had as high a drop in performance during normal working conditions as did those working in large open-plan office environments. Study III (N=1133–1171) focused on the interaction effect between office type and individual differences in personality. The personality trait agreeableness interacted with office type on the outcome variables distraction and job satisfaction. Specifically, Study III may indicate that as offices get more open and flexible, agreeable people will report more problems. In conclusion, the studies in the present thesis have implications for practice and suggest that office type impacts on employee health and performance, while concentration demands of the job and agreeableness moderate the effects. Although employees report higher level of distraction in open-plan office environments, when performance on a demanding task is measured, cell offices are not as favourable during normal working conditions as self-reported data usually indicate. Organisations should also be aware that, among open-plan offices, small open-plan offices are associated with fewer problems.

Abstract [sv]

Kontorslandskap med eller utan fasta arbetsstationer förekommer idag i många organisationer. Förespråkare för kontorslandskap hänvisar till kostnadsbesparing samt förbättrade förutsättningar för kommunikation, medan motståndare hävdar att kontorslandskap leder till försämrad prestation och hälsa bland medarbetarna. Denna avhandling undersöker om kontorstyp påverkar de anställdas hälsa och prestation, samt om effekten av kontorstyp varierar beroende på de anställdas personlighet och typ av arbetsuppgifter. Data i form av enkätsvar och prestation på kognitiva tester samlades in från fem organisationer med olika typer av kontorslösningar (cellkontor, delade kontorsrum, små kontorslandskap, mellanstora kontorslandskap, stora kontorslandskap och flexkontor). I studie I (N = 1241) var syftet att undersöka huvudeffekten av kontorstyp på indikatorer för hälsa och prestation samt om effekten är beroende av koncentrationskraven i arbetet. Kontorstyp visade samband med distraktion och kognitiv stress på så sätt att medarbetare i cellkontor uppgav minst problem, följt av de i flexkontor, medan kontorslandskap var förknippade med mer problem. Vidare rapporterade anställda som hade arbetsuppgifter som krävde koncentration mer problem i kontorslandskap och flexkontor, medan anställda i cellkontor, oavsett arbetets krav, rapporterade lika mycket problem. I studie II (N = 527) undersöktes hur prestation på ett minnestest påverkades under normala arbetsförhållanden jämfört med en tyst referensmätning i olika kontorstyper. Det fanns ett negativt dos-responssamband mellan storleken på kontorslandskapet och hur många procent sämre medarbetare presterade under normala arbetsförhållanden. Men Studie II visade också att personer som arbetar i cellkontor hade ett lika högt bortfall i prestation under normala arbetsförhållanden som de som arbetade i stora kontorslandskap. I studie III (N = 1133-1171) låg fokus på interaktionseffekten mellan kontorstyp och personlighet. Vänlighet var den enda personlighetsvariabeln som interagerade med kontorstyp på utfallsvariablerna distraktion och arbetstillfredsställelse. Mer specifikt visade Studie III att när kontoret blir mer öppet och flexibelt, så rapporterar människor som skattar sig högt på personlighetsvariabeln vänlighet fler problem. Resultaten i avhandlingen kan få flera praktiska implikationer då den visar att kontorstyp påverkar medarbetarnas hälsa och prestation, medan koncentrationskrävande arbetsuppgifter och vänlighet modererar effekterna. Vidare visar avhandlingen att även om anställda rapporterar mindre distraktion i cellkontor jämfört med i kontorslandskap, behöver inte cellkontor vara lika gynnsamma som självskattade mått visar när prestationen mäts med objektiva mått under normala arbetsförutsättningar, i det här fallet ett minnestest. Slutligen bör organisationer även vara medvetna om att avhandlingen visar en viss tendens att små kontorslandskap är förknippade med mindre problem än stora.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2015. 60 p.
Office type, open-plan office, flex office, cell office, performance, job satisfaction, distraction, self-rated health, well-being, cognitive stress, exhaustion, individual differences, personality, concentration, stim-ulus screening ability, memory, Kontorstyp, kontorslandskap, flexkontor, cellkontor, produktivitet, arbetstillfredsställelse, distraktion, självskattat hälsa, trivsel, kognitiv stress, utmattning, individuella skillnader, personlighet, koncentration, arbetsminne
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urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118824 (URN)978-91-7649-236-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-09-11, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
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At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2015-08-20 Created: 2015-07-06 Last updated: 2015-07-24Bibliographically approved

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Seddigh, AramBerntson, ErikWesterlund, Hugo
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Stress Research InstituteAging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI)Department of Psychology
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