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Balancing privacy and communication in activity-based workspaces: a longitudinal study

Marc Rücker (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany)
Tobias T. Eismann (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany)
Martin Meinel (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany)
Antonia Söllner (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany)
Kai-Ingo Voigt (School of Business, Economics and Society, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany)

Journal of Corporate Real Estate

ISSN: 1463-001X

Article publication date: 5 December 2022

71

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this study is to investigate whether activity-based workspaces (ABWs) are able to solve the privacy-communication trade-off known from fixed-desk offices. In fixed-desk offices, employees work in private or open-plan offices (or in combi-offices) with fixed workstations, which support either privacy or communication, respectively. However, both dimensions are essential to effective employee performance, which creates the dilemma known as the privacy-communication trade-off. In activity-based workspaces, flexible workstations and the availability of different spaces may solve this dilemma, but clear empirical evidence on the matter is unavailable.

Design/methodology/approach

To address this knowledge gap, the authors surveyed knowledge workers (N = 363) at a medium-sized German company at three time points (T1–T3) over a one-year period during the company’s move from a fixed-desk combi-office (a combination of private and open-plan offices with fixed workplaces) to an ABW. Using a quantitative survey, the authors evaluated the employees’ perceived privacy and perceived communication in the old (T1) and the new work environments (T2 and T3).

Findings

The longitudinal study revealed a significant increase in employees’ perceived privacy and perceived communication in the ABW. These increases remained stable in the long term, which implies that ABWs have a lasting positive impact on employees.

Originality/value

As the privacy and communication dimensions were previously considered mutually exclusive in a single workplace, the results confirm that ABWs can balance privacy and communication, providing optimal conditions for enhanced employee performance.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM 2021).

Citation

Rücker, M., Eismann, T.T., Meinel, M., Söllner, A. and Voigt, K.-I. (2022), "Balancing privacy and communication in activity-based workspaces: a longitudinal study", Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRE-11-2021-0038

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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