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Generation Y in open plan offices Heidi Rasila Peggie Rothe BES Research Group ERES 2011 June 15-18 th, Eindhoven.

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Presentation on theme: "Generation Y in open plan offices Heidi Rasila Peggie Rothe BES Research Group ERES 2011 June 15-18 th, Eindhoven."— Presentation transcript:

1 Generation Y in open plan offices Heidi Rasila Peggie Rothe BES Research Group ERES 2011 June th, Eindhoven

2 Background

3 Aim This article aims at understanding how the youngest generation at work perceives problems that are linked to open plan offices

4 Generations: “an identifiable group that shares birth years, age, location, and significant life events at critical developmental stages” (Kupperschmidt 2000) Characteristics more dependent on experience and life stage? Generation Y?  This research does not aim to provide evidence that the findings are a consequence of the generation

5 Methods Identifying problems in open plan offices through literature review Case study in one Finnish telecommunications company 3 sites, 20 interviews Contact center activities: – making inbound and outbound telephone calls – replying customer letters and s – carrying out other computer-based office tasks Thematic interviews addressing the problems identified in the literature review – Addressed as ”features” not ”problems”

6 Literature review: Problems linked to open plan offices Noise (e.g. Banbury & Berry 1998; Loewen & Suedfeld 1992; Hongisto 2005) Density (e.g Sundström & al. 1982; Marans & Speckelmeyer 1982; Oldham & Rotchsford 1983; Oldham & Fried 1987; Oldham 1988) Privacy (e.g. Marans & Speckelmayer 1982; Hedge 1982; 1986; Sundstrom & al. 1980; Block & Stokes 1989) Distractions (e.g. Hedge 1982; McElroy & Morrow 2010)

7 Literature review: Problems linked to open plan offices Presence of others (e.g. Bharucha-Reid and Kiyak 1982; Block and Stokes 1989) Social setting (e.g. Oldham & Brass 1979; Becker & al. 1987) Inefficiency and increased workload (e.g. Pejtersen & al 2006; Smith-Jackson & Klein 2009) Ambient conditions (e.g. Hummelgaard, & al. 2007; Evans & Johnson 2000; Witterseh &al. 2004; Pejtersen & al. 2006)

8 Findings Noise – Not perceived very disturbing – Voices that are sudden and unanticipated a bit disturbing Density – Was acknowledged and perceived irritating but it did not seem to arouse strong feelings among the interviewees Privacy – Acoustic privacy was not considered a problem by the interviewees – visual privacy perceived more problematic “I don’t see it as especially noisy. Maybe there are some peaks, when someone laughs out loudly, but then, that never lasts for hours.” “We are sitting quite densely, as the next person is sitting about 30 centimeters from me…..” “ Sometimes you have to think how to get from place a to b. ” “ This work is serving the customer masses and this is not the kind of work that requires so much privacy. ” “ …it would be nicer if my workstation would face the corridor as at the moment everyone sees what I’m doing with my computer.. ”

9 Findings Distractions – most common distractions were other employees asking for advice (and occasionally the noises) – the presence of others who ask questions was seen essential for carrying out the job Presence of others – All but one interviewee preferred open plan solutions as there are others present to communicate with – the type of relationship with others affect much how the presence of others is perceived Social setting – the ease of communication as an important feature of their work environment – the open plan office is not a place for private discussion “If I happen to have a bad day, they (the persons asking questions) start to annoy me. I think ”don’t you see that I’m in the middle of something”. Even so, I do understand that if you have something to ask, you have to do it. ” “ Those sitting next to me are all my friends and I don’t mind them being there. ” “ Our conversations are mainly about work and the cases we are working on...Other issues may be discussed in the smoking area or during lunch. ”

10 Findings Inefficiency and increased workload – the open-plan office potentially increases their workload but on the other hand it makes the work more efficient Consulting others increases workload Discussions can be held efficiently – Hearing others speak on the phone good way of learning things from others Ambient conditions – Some problems with ambient conditions (draft, variations in temperature) – Employees not able to control the ambient conditions but satisfied with the possibility to choose seats “ Those sitting next to me are all my friends and I don’t mind them being there. ” “ I just listen to my neighbor talking on the phone. It is a great way to learn from others and sometimes I may be able to give some hints back”

11 Conclusions The Gen Y employees in this study liked their open plan office The usual ”problems” acknowledged, but not perceived serious ”Problems” seen as a fair trade-off for some greater good Open plan working environments are complex and interrelated systems where all parts affect the others – Only assessing one at the time gives a very limited picture Findings a result of generation or experience? – Impossible to say and not within the scope of this research!

12 Thank you! Questions? Comments? For more information:


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