The researchers followed 700 employees at the Swedish Transport Administration during the transition to activity-based offices. Before the move, the public agency organised lectures, workshops, and other information initiatives, to involve employees and to make them learn more about the major change in working methods. For example, employees were to become aware of the new office rules.
“Clearly, those who had participated in at least one activity knew more about the change and their sense of being involved was significantly higher, compared to those who did not participate,” Eva Bergsten says.
Moreover, the results show that understanding increased further for every additional activity an employee participated in. This became evident even before moving into the new office.
“If you are supported in such a process, everything goes much more smoothly both before the move and afterwards. In this way, moving is not just something that just happens that you must adapt to.”
“The turnout was incredible”
Some of the activities that had a clear impact in the transition to an activity-based office, according to the study:
“The turnout was incredible. Great to gain insight into why we're doing this, what the effects will be, how the move will work, and great that we were given the opportunity to ask questions,” one employee said.
Seminar on modern ergonomics
The focus here was on the benefits and challenges of working in an activity-based workplace.
By engaging in dialogues on working methods, desk ownership, office rules, and more, the workshops aimed to increase understanding and to provide tools for working in activity-based offices. Workshops were offered throughout the process and included study visits and tours of the new premises.
The focus in these seminars was on changes in modern working life and why we need to adapt. Specific topics were challenges, fears, expectations, benefits, and general working methods in an activity-based office.
Millions of people’s offices are being rebuilt
Tens of millions of people in Europe work in offices that could be affected by conversions to activity-based offices. An important question is if we know how these new offices will affect our health. Possibly, research fails to keep up.
“The ongoing transformation is huge, but there is not much research to rely on. The research community needs to try to understand its impact on our health,” says David Hallman, docent of occupational health science at University of Gävle.
As working remotely is becoming the 'new normal,' offices are being redesigned. For this reason, there is an urgent need for evidence-based guidelines and tools on how to prevent work-related ill health and promote well-being at work.
“It is striking how little we know about how the new office designs will affect our health. If there are gaps in knowledge, regulatory frameworks and companies’ health and safety policies may not be up to date regarding work in modern office environments,” David Hallman says.
Text: Douglas Öhrbom