Forskning: Front and Backstage in the Workplace

I prosjektet K2 Morgendagens arbeidsplass har Mellomroms phd-stipendiat sammen med NTNU og SINTEF skrevet en artikkel som ble presentert som research paper på European Facility Management Conference i Glasgow. Artikkelen ble etter dette tattvidere til å bli publisert som vitenskapelig artikkel i Journal of Facilities Management. 

Her finner dere abstrakt, introduksjon og konklusjon. Hele artikkelen som både research paper og vitenskapelig publikasjon finner du i linker nederst i innlegget. Artikkelen heter Front and Backstage in the Workplace: An Explorative Case Study on Activity Based Working and Employee Perceptions of Control over Work-related Demands. 


Abstract

Purpose: Employees' ability to handle work-related demands, structure their own work and manage workflow has become highly important in today's complex organisations. This study explores the impact of the office environment on employees' ability to control interaction, structure own work processes and handle work-related demands. Our focus is on the influence of the physical premises, especially on how work within private, privileged and public work zones may affect perceptions of, and possibilities to control, customer interactions and other work related demands.


Method: The paper is based on a qualitative case study in a Norwegian finance corporation. The study was carried out as an evaluation of an on-going process to roll out a new branch office concept. The core method was semi-structured interviews, carried out with 29 employees and managers. The triangulated research design further included observations, field notes, user logs and document analyses.


Findings: Our findings indicate that, in a customer centred work process, separate zones for customer related and intra-departmental work provide employees with increased scope to handle work demands and perceive control in their work. Zoning helped structure the workflow and provided employees with new resources in customer interaction and other work tasks. Additionally, the study indicates an increase in employee satisfaction and improved internal communication. Increased operational flexibility and improved customer relations were further benefits associated with the new workplace concept.


Introduction:

Individual control over work-related aspects is a high priority among today's knowledge workers (Myerson et al., 2010). This is commonly referred to as the degree of control, discretion and responsibility an individual has over location, methods, content and tools for the work process (Laing et al., 1998). Demerouti et al. (2001) state that employee well-being, job strain and performance are affected by the balance between job demands and resources. In their model, job demands refer to organisational, social, physical or psychological work-related aspects that require sustained mental and/or physical effort and hence are associated with psychological and/or physiological costs. Job resources, on the other hand, are aspects of the job that are supportive of achieving work goals or reducing job demands. This paper explores the impact of the office environment on how work in different task specific zones may affect employee perceptions of environmental control, customer interactions, and work-related demands. The paper is based on a qualitative case study in a Norwegian finance corporation. The study was carried out as an evaluation of an on-going process to roll out a new branch office concept. Four offices were included, where three had gone through a full transition to the new concept. The time since the transition was three, two and one year/s, respectively. The fourth office was in the process of restructuring, thus broadening our basis for understanding and comparing perceptions of work and control in the new and old concept. The core method was semi-structured interviews, carried out with 29 employees and managers with different roles and work tasks. The number of interviews conducted at each office varied between 6-9. Field notes on observations and informal discussions during a 2-day visit at each office, as well as an employee self-reporting log on work in different zones across two working days, also provided important data. Secondary materials in form of internal reports and company statistics were used to triangulate and verify the findings. Interview and observational data from the units were coded and analysed separately. However, our focus here is on cross-unit analysis. The reported observations, views and experiences cut across all units that had fulfilled a transition, unless otherwise stated.


Conclusion

The presented study has applied an employee perspective to how work in an activity based workplace concept, with separate zones for customer and intra-departmental work, impact employees' ability to control interaction, structure own work processes and handle work-related demands. Customer perspective and experience with the zoning was not included in the study. Such angle might however provide new perspectives and additional insight into how the activity based workplace affect customer perception and experiences with regards to quality of service. From the employee perspective, opportunity to stage different kinds of performances in different locations was found to increase the environmental control and ability to handle work-related demands among all categories of employees, although to different degrees. The zoning helped employees to structure the workflow and provided new resources in customer interaction and other individual work tasks. Further, as employees get more scope to move between locations, learn and decide how to handle various situations, divisions between front and backstage may become more flexible and fluent, adding to employee environmental competence. Added value was further found with regards to employee satisfaction, improved internal communication, employee perception of increased customer experience and relations and operational flexibility. Broadening the focus in research on environmental control and work-related demands, from individual coping to social interaction, may provide more insight into factors influencing work processes and employee well-being in emerging workplace concepts. How various aspects play out in different work cultures and with relation to different work processes and how these physical aspects can be managed for the benefit of modern corporations are interesting topics for further research.


Paper: http://www.eurofm.org/images/Papers/Section_4.2__Workplace_management.pdf

Akademisk publikasjon: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JFM-10-2015-0029?journalCode=jfm

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