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Proximity and collaboration: measuring workplace configuration

M. Gordon Brown (Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands Space Analytics, llc, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Corporate Real Estate

ISSN: 1463-001X

Article publication date: 1 February 2008




The purpose of this paper is to describe how to measure workplace configuration, show its application in, and the results of, a field experiment aimed at improving collaborative knowledge work and identify and discuss larger problems involved with research on workplace configuration.


The paper reviews recent thought on density, proximity and problems with evaluating configuration. It then describes a method of spatial network analysis used in a field experiment involving the reconfiguration of a workplace. This is followed with a discussion of recent research on knowledge work from economic geography.


It was found that, instead of increasing it, the reconfigured workplace decreased collaborative activity. The spatial network analysis shows how this occurred.

Research limitations/implications

This method of spatial network analysis, when used carefully, is a robust technique for analyzing and comparing spatial configuration. Further research needs to address the links between spatial proximity and information and communications technologies as well as the relation of types of knowledge bases and associated forms of proximity that can stimulate collaboration.

Practical implications

While spatial network analysis methods are not do‐it‐yourself tools, corporate real estate managers should employ them, especially in larger‐scale projects, before committing to final workplace designs. They can also use them to identify and map best spatial patterns (like best practices) to identify strategic spatial patterns.


This appears to be the first rigorous application of spatial network methods in a field experiment involving a real workplace. The paper shows the method can clearly extract and discriminate spatial network patterns underlying configurations and relate them both quantitatively and graphically to employee evaluations of collaborative performance. It introduces concepts of comparative knowledge bases that need to be understood in determining the types of collaboration needed in a workplace.



Gordon Brown, M. (2008), "Proximity and collaboration: measuring workplace configuration", Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 5-26.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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