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How to cope with dilemmas in activity-based work environments

June 2015 | Iris de Been, Marion Beijer, Dorieke den Hollander

Research paper of the 14th EuroFM Research Symposium.


The aim of this research is to identify factors that can further explain the benefits and draw backs of activity based office concepts, resulting in practical recommendations for addressing and preventing issues.


Nowadays a lot of organisations shift to working in a more flexible and activity based manner. When it comes to the experience of employees, the activity based office concept often gives rise to long-standing issues such as lack of privacy, concentration problems and insufficient supporting facilities.


In 20 case studies both a questionnaire and group interviews were conducted, resulting in 2733 survey respondents and 57 group interviews with 271 participants.


Results show that respondents appreciate the light and colourful environment and that the openness of the work environment can lead to more communication in general and between different colleagues and departments. However, this openness is also mentioned as a downside, since people feel like there is not enough privacy for personal conversations and communication with direct colleagues seem to decrease. While people value the different types of workspaces provided, they are not always available in practice. Explanations for problems with concentration and privacy are mainly related to the openness and transparency of the work environment. Among others, behaviour of both employees and managers seems to be important in addressing the issues.


The results are based on a large number of cases in which both quantitative and qualitative data was collected, leading to extensive and solid explanations regarding main experienced positives and negatives.