We live in a knowledge economy that values new ideas, creativity and generating knowledge that adds value to the economy.
It is no secret that workspace design and occupancy affects not only how people feel, but also their work performance, their commitment to their employer, and the creation of new knowledge (human capital) in the organization. There are a lot of studies that make direct links between the environmental design of workspace and worker performance. I believe that workspace should be a tool for performing work, as much as say investing in a better computer and better tools for work.
There are countless stressors in the work environment that distract us and affect our performance. High intensity or prolonged distractions slow us down and reduce our ability to process and understand the complex information. What used to seem an easy task, with added distractions – impossible to complete. Environmental stressors influence physiological processes, limit motivation and performance. These physical stressors in the workplace affect our sense of control and effectiveness. I personally like to feel productive and focused, as many other professionals do. This correlates not only with my self-satisfaction but also translates into interaction with other people.
What is Productivity?
There is a concept of ‘workplace performance’. It means the workspace whose explicit objective is to support the performance of work. I want to create a performing workplace that is designed to optimize worker productivity and bring it to the next level. A good question to ask: what is productivity? I found three kinds of productivity that are influenced by environmental design:
- Individual productivity. It is evaluated by how a worker’s micro-environment influences his or her task performance, which is how fast and accurately a worker performs his tasks at work. On an individual level, we can affect performance by environmental conditions such as lighting, visual conditions, temperature and humidity, furniture ergonomics and acoustics. Increased individual productivity results in improved speed and accuracy of the tasks performed.
- Group productivity is typically evaluated in terms of the quality and quantity of group processes. Teamwork is harder to quantify and it is measured in tangible terms such as new product release time, or in the number of successful new ideas or good recommendations. Environmental determinants of workgroup effectiveness include the positioning of work areas and shared space, as well as access to shared tools and equipment (Heerwagen, Kampschroer, Powell & Loftness, 2004).
- Company’s or organization’s productivity. This is the macroenvironment. Productivity on this level is affected by locational benefits and accessibility, balancing consolidation with a dispersion of different groups in different facilities, and building amenities such as fast elevators, convenient bathrooms, adequate parking, and attractive eating areas (Vischer, 2006).
In addition, there are more objective productivity indicators are:
- Reduced illness rates
- Increased speed and accuracy of task completion
- Rate of new ideas generation
What is Comfort?
There are three types of comfort that are being defined in literature:
Physical comfort refers to meeting basic human needs, such as safety, hygiene and accessibility. Functional comfort is defined as environmental support for employees’ performance of work-related tasks and activities. Functional comfort is also defined by the degree to which workers can perform their tasks in the place of occupancy. One of the measures of functional comfort is whether people can perform tasks easily, with difficulty, or not at all in the workspace occupied.
Psychological comfort includes feelings of belonging, ownership and control over the workspace. An essential component of psychological comfort is a sense of territory. This sense comes from both: individual territory (office, workstation, micro-workspace) and group territory (team, group, midrange workspace). The territory is not simply made up of the walls and doors that enclose space. A sense of privacy largely contributes to psychological comfort.
Creating a Supportive Environment
At home, people are comfortable physically, however, in order to perform at their best it’s not enough. Physical comfort is essential and could not be neglected. To achieve extraordinary results, we need to place the person in an extraordinary environment – the environment that goes beyond physical comfort and designed to improve focus and productivity. I want to create such an environment using the latest research and modern technology.
Studies have found that people moving out of private enclosed offices into open workstations judge their environment more negatively, citing lack of privacy, acoustic conditions, and confidentiality problems (Brennan, Chugh, & Kline, 2002; Rishi, Sinha & Dubey, 2000). This is an important fact to consider nowadays. For the past several months, a lot of people have been working from the privacy of their homes, thus they will find it difficult to move into the open workspace layout. Luckily to me, most coworking space providers have an abundance of such, but lack of individual workspaces. Research suggests that office workers are uncomfortable in open-plan configurations and prefer private enclosed workspace, which may work better for individual tasks but are less successful for teamwork. The BOSTI-Westinghouse study had shown, that employees, especially managers, working in open-plan workstations felt they were more productive in enclosed offices.
Workers in open-plan workspace tend to judge noise to be a primary source of discomfort and reduced productivity (Stokols & Scharf, 1990; Mital, McGlothlin, Faard, 1992). I want to create an environment, using soundproof materials and noise-cancelling systems.
The difference between a supportive and an unsupportive workspace is the degree to which occupants can conserve their attention and energy for their tasks, as opposed to expending it to cope with adverse environmental conditions.
In order to create the optimal workspace for creativity and “flow”, we need to develop different workspace concepts that target different types of people and kinds of work they do. “One size fits all” will not work. Our workspace is not designed to be a one-time, final, and permanent ergonomic support for all office tasks. We are adaptable and ‘negotiable’ to be most supportive of our customers.
The “Ba” concept
The concept termed ‘ba’ – an environment that supports and encourages knowledge creation. The ‘Ba‘ represents a contextual place shared with others from which relationships emerge, and within which knowledge is exchanged or shared. This place may be physical, virtual, or mental or a combination of these.
“The ‘Cyber Ba’ (also called ‘Systemizing Ba’), is a virtual place (or world) in which explicit knowledge can be exchanged in a systematic way. It is usually supported by collaborative environments using information technologies, facilitating knowledge sharing between groups. This includes online networks, databases, and online platforms.”, (The Concept of ‘Ba’, 2017).
I want to create a Cyber Ba space, that is supported by modern technology and science to help people be as effective as possible. I want it to be stimulating for work and creativity. I want it to be inspiring. I want people to wish they never left.
- The concept of ‘Ba’. (2017). Retrieved 14 October 2020, from https://theknowledgeexplorer.org/2017/07/05/the-concept-of-ba/#:~:text=The%20’Interacting%20Ba’%20(also,peers%20through%20an%20externalisation%20process.&text=This%20is%20where%20the%20learning,knowledge%20made%20available%20to%20them.
- Towards an Environmental Psychology of Workspace: How People are Affected by Environments for Work. (2020). Architectural Science Review. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.