Exploring the Effectiveness of Unassigned Workspace in Alternate Workplace Environment

Presented by: Çigdem T. Akkurt, Tina Patel

Problem Statement: Workplace environments are ever changing and typically contingent upon various changes that take place in society, including economics, demographic shifts, and technology (Maitland & Thompson, 2011). In last decade, pendulum for workplace environment has gone back and forth from vastly open offices to private arrangements. Another trend that has emerged recently is the Alternate Workplace Strategy (AWS). AWS expands definable work zones beyond the individual assigned or unassigned workspace, creating a combination of elements like workstations, open and collaboration and so on. The core value of a workplace strategy delivered as AWS is to create a workplace that is a stronger tool for people to create business results (Becker & Steele, 1995). An unassigned workspace is where the individual employee has no dedicated personally assigned office, workstation, or desk (Franklin & Steele, 1994). Most of the research in workplace focuses either on impact of open office space on employee’s well-being, productivity, interaction or issues related to privacy, focus and productivity. Significant research is not found in the area of unassigned workspaces based on the model of AWS and its relation to employees’ satisfaction and engagement. Research Question: Grounded in research that include the history of workplace design, issues inherent in organizations, and matters associated with individual productivity within the workplace environment, the purpose of this study is to better understand how unassigned office space in an AWS model translates into an effective workspaces. Family and Work Institute (http://www.familiesandwork.org/) categorizes six components for an effective workplace. The six categories are: opportunities for learning, supervisor support for work success, autonomy, culture of trust, work-life fit and satisfaction with earnings, benefits and opportunities for advancement (Families and Work Institute, 2012). For the purpose of this study, only three categories: opportunities of learning, autonomy and culture of trust are taken into consideration. The primary research questions driving this study is: What spatial characteristics in an unassigned alternate workplace make them effective workplaces? Do these spatial characteristics contribute positively to employees’ engagement, satisfaction and retention? Design Research Methodology: This study is researched through the lens of two case studies of firms recently designed on this strategy. Mixed methodology i.e. primarily qualitative with quantitative survey nested into it is used for this study. Grounded theory, one of the strategy of qualitative research methodology is applied to this research as an overarching methodology and as a method for analyzing the data. Five participants from each firm were interviewed to understand the effectiveness of the workplace. Due to the time constraints in interviewing all the employees in both case studies and to capture most all target audience a survey was send to understand the effectiveness of this model. The quantitative data gathered from the survey and results assisted in interpretation of the qualitative findings. The study aimed to reveal the participants perspectives and interpretations of their own actions and their physical environment on effectiveness in relation to the unassigned alternate work environment. The information helped in development of an overarching theoretical scheme for integrating categories and describing the employees’ experiences of their work environment from the various perspectives. Outcomes: This study will help bridge that gap and document how the strategy of unassigned workplace can translate into an effective workspace for the employees where they can be engaged, satisfied and plan to stay longer. This study will provide recommendations that could inform design practitioners, educators, and contribute to the overall body of knowledge in this area.


  • Becker, F. & Steele, F. (1995). Workplace by Design: Mapping the High-Performance Workspace. New York: Jossey-Bass Inc.
  • Duffy, F. (1992) The Changing Workplace. London: Phaidon Press Limited.
  • Maitland, A. & Thompson, P. ( 2011). Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Families and Work Institute (2012) Workflex: The Essential Guide to Effective and Flexible Workplaces. VA: Society For Human Resource Management
  • Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research- Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. London: Sage Publications.
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