Productivity and satisfaction in non-territorial offices
March 2004 | Theo van der Voordt
In the early 1990s, a few organisations in the Netherlands began to experiment with flexible workplaces. Traditional cellular offices and the open-plan offices or team-oriented bullpen spaces in which everyone had their own fixed workplace were no longer a matter of course. Making use of modern information and communication technology, the pioneers redirected their attention towards the sharing of activity-related workplaces in a combi-office. Economic considerations (e.g. low occupancy of expensive workplaces), organisational developments (network organisations, teamwork, fast exchange of knowledge, part-time work) and external developments (globalisation, strong competition)are important drivers for change. The aim is to stimulate new ways of working (dynamic, less closely linked to place and time), to improve labour productivity and to make major cost savings (fewer workplaces, fewer square metres), without reducing employee satisfaction.
Since then a number of new offices have been realised. Twelve per cent of organisations that have moved recently use flexible workspaces for the most part or exclusively. An important question now is whether the aims have been achieved. What are the actual benefits? What are the risks? How should consultants advise their clients? The field is dominated by the opinions of those in favour and those against. Statements expressing the successes or failures of flexible offices contradict each other. Hard data are almost lacking. Due to the scarcity of empirically supported insights, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands together with the Centre for People and Buildings and the Centre for Facility Management are carrying out investigations into the costs and benefits of workplace innovation. This paper reports on progress so far, with a focus on employee satisfaction and labour productivity.
The paper was published in the Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Vol. 6 no. 2, 133-148.