More and more people work in an ‘activity-related’ environment, which means they don’t have a fixed workstation but can make flexible use of all sorts of spaces. It is a great concept but, unfortunately, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. This is the conclusion of two scientific studies that were recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, as part of PhD student Jan Gerard Hoendervanger’s research into ‘The psychology of the flexible workstation’ (De psychologie van de flexplek).
The good news is that it does indeed appear useful to use various workspaces that are intended for different activities. The evidence, in terms of perception, satisfaction and objectively-measured work performance, was the strongest for concentration-based work. This type of work was performed much better in a one-person room without any distractions than in an open-plan office surrounded by colleagues. Above all, employees with strong privacy requirements found it difficult to do concentration-based work in an open environment.
This brings us to the bad news. In terms of the flexible workstations that we see being used in many organizations, only a very small amount of these are suited to concentration-based work – while this forms the basis of many staff members’ work duties. This mismatch seems to be an important explanation for the often poor satisfaction levels, especially in regards to employees with strong privacy requirements, such as those highlighted by a previous study. Organizations that want to successfully implement flexible workstations should begin by thoroughly analysing users’ needs in terms of their work duties and personal characteristics.
Jan Gerard Hoendervanger,
As of March 1, 2021, Jochem Tolsma has been appointed as professor by special appointment of Social Divisions between Groups in the Department of Sociology at the University of Groningen.
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