Bodin Danielsson and her research team studied the relationship between workplace design and perceptions of the leaders of an organization. Data were collected in Sweden from people working in cell-offices, shared room offices (2 to 3 people in a room), small open plan offices (4-9 people per room), medium-sized open plan offices with 10 to 24 people in a room and large open plan offices with more than 24 people per room. Study participants were asked to rate their immediate supervisors on factors such as their integrity, how autocratic they were, how inspiring the leader was, and the manager’s apparent concern for the worker. The researchers found that “office environment has an influence on perceived managerial leadership . . . poorer ratings of leadership were found in shared-room offices, and better in medium-sized open plan offices.” Ratings from other office types fell between these two. The research team hypothesizes these results may be due to the fact that “in shared-room offices with a physically absent leader, independent sub cultures could evolve, which risk becoming self-sustaining, autonomous and distanced from the management . . . An office type with a medium-sized group of employees sharing workspace with the manager would thus not foster subcultures, but rather facilitate interaction and reduce the status barriers . . . . research . . . has found that a visibly and audibly present manager is positive for the perception of supervisor friendliness.” Information on worker performance in each office type was not reported. The findings from this Bodin Danielsson study are consistent with those of Newsham, Brand, Donnelly, Veitch, Aries, and Charles who determined that “employees consider their physical environment as part of their compensation package. . . . Our results also suggest that employees’ opinion of their management is influenced by the quality of the physical environment that management provides and maintains. . . . Overall, this finding suggests that careful attention to the design and operation of indoor environments will reap benefits in terms of how employees feel valued by the organization, and their impressions of management competence.”
Christina Bodin Danielsson, Cornelia Wulff, and Hugo Westerlund. 2013. “Is Perception of Leadership Influenced by Office Environment?” Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 15, no. 3/4, pp. 194-212.
G. Newsham, J. Brand, C. Donnelly, J. Veitch, M. Aries, K. Charles. 2009. “Linking Indoor Environment Conditions to Organizational Productivity: A Field Study.” National Research Council Canada, Institute for Research in Construction, http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/obj/irc/doc/pubs/nrcc49714/nrcc49714.pdf