Research on the physical work environment and employee territorial behavior in the field of organizational behavior is limited. In particular, while the prevalence of territorial behaviors in organizations is not new, little is known about how the physical work environment (e.g. open-plan offices) may influence the enactment, interpretation and reactions to territoriality. The purpose of this paper is to explore the connection between the physical environment of work (e.g. open-plan office), employee territorial behaviors (including infringement) and affective environment.
Data were collected by means of in-depth-interviews from 27 participants from two large Australian public organizations involved in recruitment, marketing, consulting and education.
Results revealed that employees’ personalization in the open-plan office is driven by the nature of their tasks, appointment, duration of time spent on their desk, level of adaptation to the open-plan office configurations and the proximity of desks to senior managers, hallways and passers-by. Additionally, affective environment has a critical effect on employee personalization and the enactment and perception of territoriality and infringements in open-plan offices. Additionally, the authors found that the affective environment is dynamic and that employees in open-plan offices experienced emotional contagion (positive and negative).
Due to the demographic make-up of one of the participating organizations, less than a third of participants were male. While the data did not suggest any disparity in the territorial behaviors of male and female, future research should include an even representation of male and female participants. Similarly, the authors did not examine the impact of ethnicity and cultural background on employees’ territoriality. However, given that the workforce is increasingly becoming multicultural, future research should explore how ethnicity might impact the use of space, work processes and productivity in open-plan office. Additionally, scholars should continue to tease out the impact of affective environment (positive and negative) on team processes (e.g. conflict, communication, collaboration and the development of team mental models) in the open-plan office.
The results indicate some practical implications. Noise and distraction are indicated in the results. Therefore, human resource managers and organizational leaders should work with employees to develop some ground rules and norms to curb excessive noise in the open-plan office. Additionally, the authors found in the current study that the affective environment is dynamic and that employees in open-plan offices experienced emotional contagion (positive and negative). Managers should watch out for how individuals react to the prevailing emotions and moods in the open-plan office with the intention of diffusing negative emotions as quickly as possible, for example, by changing the topic under discussion in the open-plan office. The results speak to the need for more active collaboration and engagement between policy makers, workspace architects, designers and employees especially prior to the building of such workspaces.
The results suggest that effective employee interactions in open-plan office may be enhanced by positive emotional contagion and office affective environment.
So far, little is known about the impact of the physical work context (e.g. open-plan offices) on the enactment, interpretation and reactions to territoriality. The current paper explores the connection between the physical environment of work (e.g. open-plan office), employee territorial behaviors (including infringement) and affective environment. The findings demonstrate for the first time and especially in an open-plan office that ownership and personalization of objects and workspaces are more likely to be driven by the amount of time spent at one’s desk, the nature of employees’ appointments and tasks. Additionally, the present research is one of the first to report on affective environment dynamism in the open-plan office.
Monaghan, N. and Ayoko, O.B. (2019), "Open-plan office, employees’ enactment, interpretations and reactions to territoriality", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 228-245. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-10-2017-0270
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