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Workspace design and fit-out: what knowledge workers value

Raewyn Hills (The Department of Property, University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)
Deborah Levy (The Department of Property, The University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)

Property Management

ISSN: 0263-7472

Article publication date: 14 October 2014




Organisations use “space” to support the profitability of their business. The workplace and the space that organisations occupy is continuously evolving and transforming. There has been a general trend globally to provide less assigned space and more shared space for employees at higher occupational density. Studies have shown that the workplace setting can contribute to an employee's sense of well-being and increased productivity. The purpose of this paper is to permit a deeper understanding as to how knowledge workers evaluate their workspace within this changing environment.


The paper describes an integrated conceptual framework developed from a range of literature within the disciplines of property, psychology and facilities management. In order to investigate the pertinence of this framework a case study is undertaken comprising five one-to-one in-depth interviews with knowledge workers from an organisation that had recently relocated. The key changes between the original and newer premises in terms of space usage were the move from a more traditional layout incorporating larger desk space and eye-level partitioning to one incorporating a fit-out providing for a higher occupational density and a wider range of communal spaces.


The findings identify a number of evaluative criteria including workability, comfort, occupational density, the need for privacy, control over the environment, adjacency to colleagues and functionality, all previously identified in the literature. A further two criteria, location and customisability were also identified.

Research limitations/implications

The study although incorporating a wide ranging literature review concentrates on employees within one company and given the makeup of employees the interviewees were all male thus not able to pick up gender differences.

Practical implications

The study provides stakeholders such as organisations, workplace consultants and design professionals with information about what knowledge workers value most in their workplace environment.


Most extant literature investigating the link between employees and their workplace has focused on specific aspects of the relationship. This research contributes to understanding workplace by taking an overall perspective and providing knowledge worker employees with an opportunity to compare two distinct workplace settings.



Hills, R. and Levy, D. (2014), "Workspace design and fit-out: what knowledge workers value", Property Management, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 415-432.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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