How an office is decorated affects well-being and productivity

Principles of lean management encourage managers to exert tight control over office space and the people within it. Alternative, design-led approaches promote the value of offices that are enriched, particularly by plants and art. On the basis of a social identity perspective, we argue that both of these approaches may compromise organizational outcomes by disempowering workers and failing to give them input into the design of their office space. This hypothesis is tested in two experiments (ns = 112, 47). The first was conducted in an interior office in a psychology department, the second in a commercial city office. In 4 independent conditions we examine the impact of space management strategies in which the office is either (a) lean, (b) decorated by the experimenter (with plants and art), (c) self-decorated, or (d) self-decorated and then redecorated by the experimenter. We examine the impact of these conditions on organizational identification, well-being, and various forms of productivity (attention to detail, information processing, information management, and organizational citizenship). In both experiments, superior outcomes are observed when offices are decorated rather than lean. However, further improvements in well-being and productivity are observed when workers have input into office decoration. Moreover, these effects are attenuated if this input is overridden. Implications for theory and practice are discussed. In particular, findings point to the need to question assumptions about the merits of lean office space management that have been dominant throughout the last century.

Source: “The relative merits of lean, enriched, and empowered offices: An experimental examination of the impact of workspace management strategies on well-being and productivity.” from Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Vol 16(2), Jun 2010, 158-172

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