Worker participation and worker privacy : a concern for managers planning office space?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Office space planning is a common occurrence in organisations, yet receives little attention in management and organisational theory. One possible explanation is that the physical work environment and its planning does not have a significant effect on worker attitudes and behaviour and therefore is not a priority for management practice. This is the interpretation of some early organisational studies which minimise the value of the physical environment as a management tool (e.g., as a "Hawthorne" effect or a "Hygiene factor"). These findings are thought to have contributed to the lack of attention to the physical work environment, including office space, in management theory and practice. However, the office space planning literature, which draws largely from the field of environmental design, suggests that office space planning should be of concern to managers. This thesis investigates this question. . Two aspects of office space planning were selected in order to explore this issue: office worker participation in planning and office worker privacy. Office worker participation was selected as an aspect of the process of planning and privacy because it was an outcome of planning. The practical application of the research question is investigated by analysing recent office space planning processes and outcomes occurring in seven organisations. Sources of data include the perceptions of office managers, office employees and one design professional gained from interviews, as well as written organisational records and floor plans. Key findings concerning participation included: while all managers interviewed had an ongoing and central role in office space planning, this role was new and they found little guidance available; managers were often not aware of their own decision making capability before they involved office workers in planning; poor liaison with those constructing the environment led to limitations in the way offices could be used; and perceived fairness in allocating space was important to office workers. Key findings on office worker privacy included: workers perceived privacy to be important to work related attitudes and behaviour; not having speech privacy or control over accessibility, distractions and interruptions was reported to effect work efficiency; and private interview rooms tend to be thought of as expansion space by managers in times of organisational change. On the basis of the analysis this study concludes that office space planning is deserving of further attention in management practice, research and theory.