RDC Blog

January 2012

Welcome to the Research Design Connections blog, started in 2007. Recent blog entries are available here. Earlier blog entries (one for every working day since the beginning of May, 2007) are available to subscribers.

This is a forum to discuss recent research of interest to designers. To comment on a blog entry, please send an e-mail message to sallyaugustin@researchdesignconnections.com.

October 2014

Steelcase commissioned IPSOS to poll 10,500 workers in 14 different countries about their level of engagement with their employer and the design of their workplace.  Steelcase learned that “employees who are highly satisfied with the places they work are also the most highly engaged.”  This matters because  “engaged employees are more productive, have lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism and drive higher profits.”  Disengaged workers did not feel that their work environments supported their ability to:

  • “Concentrate easily (85%)
  • Easily and freely express and share my ideas (84%)
  • Feel relaxed, calm (85%)
  • Accommodate mobile workers (79%)
  • Feel a sense of belonging to my company and its culture (84%)
  • Work in teams without being interrupted or disrupted (87%)
  • Choose where to work within the office, based on the task I am doing (86%)
  • Socialize and have informal relaxed conversations with colleagues (65%)”

Information was gathered in France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, UK, Poland, Russia, Turkey, US, Canada, Mexico, India, and China.

Steelcase also reports that  “worldwide, actively disengaged workers continue to outnumber engaged ones at a rate of nearly 2-to-1, according to Gallup’s most recent 142-country study, ‘The State of the Global Workplace.’”

“Boosting Employee Engagement:  Place Matters.”  2014.  360 Degrees, vol. 68, pp. 4-5.

October 2014

Pastoureau has written another one of his intriguing and well-researched histories of color; in this book he focuses on the color green.  Previously, he’s reported on blue and black.  Here, the author describes the color green’s "social, cultural and symbolic history in European societies, from Greek antiquity to the present." The fascinating text includes many lush illustrations.

Michel Pastoureau. 2014.  Green:  The History of a Color.  Princeton University Press:  Princeton, NJ.

October 2014

Twenge spoke about how younger generations differ psychologically from older ones at the 2014 meeting of the American Psychological Association. Using data collected from 11 million people, she has learned that among younger people there is “more emphasis on the self and less on the rules of society.”  This difference has far reaching implications and supports more individualized housing options, for example.

Jean Twenge.  2014.  “Modern Culture and Individualism:  The Pernicious Spread of Narcissism or the Welcome Growth of Equality.”  2014 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.”  August 7-10, Washington DC.

October 2014

Kim has reviewed research on workplace design, synthesizing “research drawn from environmental design, organizational ecology, social psychology, architecture, political science, and business and public administration.”  Not surprisingly, he learned “that physical workplace has a significant impact on affective [emotional], behavioral, and performance outcomes.”  Some of his most interesting comments relate to symbolic features of offices, for example: “Public buildings and workplace design have been used as symbolic identification of power and a means of communicating an image to the public. . . . the physical features of buildings and workplace ‘communicate not only to outsiders, but to members of the system as well’ (Steele, 1973, p. 46).” Kim also effectively dispels any arguments that workplace design alone can drive worker behaviors: “design innovation alone cannot bring organizational change automatically (GSA, 2009a; Kampschroer et al., 2007; Kampschroer & Heerwagen, 2005). It must come with proper change management strategies . . . to maximize performance outcomes. . . . design impact will fade if change management strategies, such as rewarding information sharing, do not follow (Kampschroer & Heerwagen, 2005).”

Seok Kim.  2014.  “Physical Workplace as a Strategic Asset for Improving Performance in Public Organizations.”  Administration and Society, vol. 46, no. 5, pp. 496-518. 

October 2014

Duncan and his colleagues have developed a survey, which is available to all at the web address noted below, that collects Space Syntax-related information.  The Office Environment and Sitting Scale (OFFESS) specifically assesses employee sitting behavior.  Information gathered can inform the design of more healthy workplaces, ones that support physical activity among employees.  As the authors report, “Spatial configurations of office environments assessed by Space Syntax methodologies are related to employee movement patterns. These methods require analysis of floors plans, which are not readily available in large population-based studies or otherwise unavailable. Therefore a self-report instrument to assess spatial configurations of office environments using four scales was developed. . . . All scales have good measurement properties indicating the instrument may be a useful alternative to Space Syntax to examine environmental correlates of occupational sitting in population surveys.”

Mitch Duncan, Mahbub Rashid, Corneel Vandelanotte, Nicoleta Cutumisu, and Ronald Plotnikoff.  2013.  “Development and Reliability Testing of a Self-Report Instrument to Measure the Office Layout as a Correlate of Occupational Sitting.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 10, no. 16, http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/10/1/16

October 2014

Rashid and his colleagues investigated the relationship between green workplace design and workers’ environmental awareness (EA) and perceptions of organizational image (OI). By surveying people working in a Gold-level LEED-certified public building, they found that “the occupants certainly appreciated the environmental design features of the buildings. These features had played an important role in determining how satisfied the occupants were with individual workspaces, departmental spaces, and the building. These environmental design features also made the occupants more environment-conscious, even though these features did not help improve their assessment of OI. In other words, even in a case where the “green” building and the organization that occupies it are treated as an integrated system with the occupants being aware of the environmental-friendliness of the building, the building may not help improve the occupants’ assessment of OI.”

Mahbub Rashid, Kent Spreckelmeyer, and Neal Angrisano.  2012.  “Green Buildings, Environmental Awareness, and Organizational Image.”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 21-49.

October 2014

Alan Hedge has completed another study indicating the value of office design that supports workers ergonomically.  With colleague Jonathan Puleio, he determined that a “proactive workplace ergonomics program can help to prevent discomfort and injury.” Hedge defines proactive workplace ergonomics programs as “’preventive and [they] aim to design out problems before the workplace is built, making it much easier to maintain and manage.’” 
The proactive program tested “included ergonomic workstations, group training, and one-on-one consultations.” The researchers found that after completing the program and relocating to new ergonomically-supportive offices “employees reported significantly less musculoskeletal and visual discomfort and higher levels of job satisfaction and happiness. They also said they thought the ergonomics program would likely enhance company retention and recruitment.”

“Proactive Office Ergonomics Can Increase Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention.”  2014.  Press release, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, https://www.hfes.org/web/DetailNews.aspx?ID=350.

October 2014

Rashid studied the implications of colocating members of an organization who had previously worked at dispersed sites.  He found that “the purpose of colocation [i.e., promoting interaction among employees] might be defeated if organizational behavior and culture were not modified simultaneously to promote workers’ perception in support of interaction freedom.”  In addition, “any colocation that does not take into account the organizational and design factors of individual departments before colocation may fail to achieve the desired outcomes related to informal interaction support, formal interaction support, workplace location, and interaction freedom after colocation.”

Mahbub Rashid.  2013.  “A Study of the Effects of Colocation on Office Workers’ Perception.”  Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 98-116.

October 2014

When you’ve been writing online surveys, have you been wondering whether to put the check box (this is the square people click in to select an option) to the left or the right of the text of response options when they’re listed vertically?  Wonder no more.  Lenzner, Kaczmirek, and Galesic studied this issue, finding that  “questionnaire designers are advised to strive for layouts that facilitate the response process and reduce the effort required to select an answer. . . . placing the answer boxes to the left of left-aligned answer options. . . . [Results in] respondents require[ing] less cognitive effort . . . to select an answer.”

Timo Lenzner, Lars Kaczmirek, and Mirta Galesic. 2014.   “Left Feels Right:  A Usability Study on the Position of Answer Boxes in Web Surveys.”  Social Science Computer Review, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 743-764.