Lifting the curtain on contemporary office: Expected versus actual practices of virtual multispace office

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Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Business | Master's thesis
Date
2015
Major/Subject
International Design Business Management (IDBM)
International Design Business Management (IDBM)
Mcode
Degree programme
Language
en
Pages
90
Series
Abstract
Objective of the study: The production process of the 21st century in Western countries is increasingly concentrated on creating and sharing knowledge, while the production of physical goods is outsourced to lowercost economies. This so-called knowledge work often takes place outside the traditional temporal and spatial employment spheres as work can often be conducted anytime and anywhere with a laptop and an interned connection. To support these new flexible ways of working, there has been a recent trend in office design towards virtual multispace office design. The purpose of this study is to understand the expectations of managers and designers versus the actual practices of employees as to the use of virtual multispace office space and how the office design has consequence on the everyday work practices of the organizational members. Research method: Earlier research on office spaces in organizational studies has mainly taken the perspective of seeing them as abstract macro-level organizational systems, making assumptions on how organizations adapt to their changing environments through office design. In order to broaden our understanding of organizational life and its consequences of office design, this thesis will adopt a practice perspective in studying organizations - one that sees social and material as mutually entangled or imbricated. The research method utilized in data collection follows the principles of practice theory with fieldwork comprised of direct observations and interviews and informal discussion. Findings: The empirical data revealed how the office space is not a stable box that could be imposed with expected ways of using the space, assuming that the employees would act according to the intentions but that both space and materiality emerge as dynamic and generative forces shaping the individuals appropriating the office space in an on-going manner. This finding became evident through the interplay of identified accommodating practices that were aligned as well as through the resisting practices that were misaligned to the intended ways of using the virtual multispace office. Furthermore, a paradox between the managerial and design discourse on ways of using the virtual multispace office and the realized materiality of the office space was identified.
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Keywords
office design, virtual multispace office, practice theory, sociomateriality, knowledge work, contemporary organization
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