Bellezza, Paharia, and Keinan found that people link appearing busy with perceived higher status, at least in American workplaces. Their findings indicate that it may be desirable to eliminate visual shielding around some busy people, in the US, for example, those doing work that doesn’t require them to focus. The Bellezza team determined that “Americans increasingly perceive busy and overworked people as having high status. . . . the authors conducted a series of studies, drawing participants mostly from Italy and the US.
Altmann and David Hambrick confirm that mental interruptions can impede performance. They report that “As steps of a procedure are performed more quickly, memory for past performance . . . become less accurate, increasing the rate of skipped or repeated steps after an interruption. We found this effect, with practice generally improving speed and accuracy, but impairing accuracy after interruptions. . . .
Research collected from Finnish knowledge workers indicates that both taking a walk in nature at lunchtime and doing relaxation exercises over lunch have about the same effect on how tense employees feel after lunch. Building spaces that support relaxation exercises, and teaching those exercises to employees, could be a viable alternative to developing nature-based experiences in many locations.
Shahzad and her team studied some of the implications of user control over temperature in their work areas. The investigators “compared a workplace, which was designed entirely based on individual control over the thermal environment, to an environment that limited thermal control was provided as a secondary option for fine-tuning: Norwegian cellular and British open plan offices. The Norwegian approach provided each user with control over a window, door, blinds, heating and cooling as the main thermal control system.
It’s difficult to design a workplace where employees perform to their full potential over an exte
Perceptions trump reality and moods matter
Lamb and Kwok looked at the effects of workplace stressors on performance. They report on a study that collected data from office workers over 8 months: “Participants completed a total of 2261 online surveys measuring perceived thermal comfort, lighting comfort and noise annoyance, measures of work performance, and individual state factors underlying performance and wellbeing.
Grenness’ work indicates the importance of aligning national culture and workplace design. He reports on research done with Telenor, a Norwegian firm. In Norway, an open-plan, flexible workplace, that reflected the country’s egalitarian social structure worked well. This was not the case in areas in Asia. Regarding the design of its offices outside Norway, Grenness reports that “Based on the interviews, it was fairly obvious that Telenor had not given the issue [of alignment with national culture] much thought. Its overall strategy was to copy the design of its head office in Norway .
Blakey investigated links between workspace design and innovation/creativity. Knowledge workers living in California were asked how they felt workplace design influenced their innovation/creativity. Blakey found via surveys and interviews that “Within the individual workspace technology surfaced as a primary driver of innovation. When asked about team workspace respondents [indicated] concern over noise and interruptions. . .
LoMonaco-Benzing and Ha-Brookshire, in a study published in Sustainability, investigated links between Millennials’ decisions to leave firms and gaps they identified between their employers’ stated values and actions. The researchers found that “one reason young workers choose to leave a firm is because they find a disconnect between their beliefs and the culture they observe in the workplace.