Corporations balancing real estate holding (CRE) costs with recruitment-retention increasingly use activity-based flexible offices (AFO) to right-size environments for a mobile workforce. In this layout, workers have the option to select between a mix of unassigned workstations and alternative work settings (AWS) that support autonomy and mobility. The open layout encourages visibility and access to colleagues to enhance communication and collaboration. Nevertheless, studies into the effects of AFO environment attribute effects on worker needs and work outcome are sparse. Therefore, this study aims to focus on understanding how environmental features and psychological or job needs impact observed and perceived satisfaction, communication, collaboration and perceived productivity.
Data were collected in a case organization piloting an AFO before implementation across their CRE portfolio. A mixed-methods approach was used, including systematic observations, space syntax and surveys collecting information on the observed and perceived satisfaction, communication, collaboration and productivity.
Collaboration instances were higher in AWS, especially more visible and accessible open areas, supporting higher impromptu interactions and enhanced perceptions of productivity of team members and cross-team members. Privacy requirements linked to a greater demand for enclosed AWS. Team communication satisfaction depended on how easily teams were located. Almost half of the user teams clustered within workstation zones corresponding to territoriality needs. Job autonomy satisfaction depended on the availability of preferred workstation or AWS, enabling private, uninterrupted work that enhanced perceived productivity.
The case study findings indicated a correlation between the AFO environment and worker needs impacting workplace satisfaction, communication, collaboration and perceived productivity.
The findings form this case study indicated that a fit between the AFO environment and needs impacted workplace satisfaction, communication, collaboration and perceived productivity.
The authors thank Ewing Cole for providing the funds to accomplish this study. Further, the authors would like to thank Dr Nicholas Watkins for his contributions.
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