The Change Process Towards an Activity-Based Flexible Office : A Qualitative Study Regarding the Perceptions of Managers and Employees at Skellefteå Municipality

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: Change is a constant factor in today's society and an important factor in the success of organizations. As a result, it is highly important that organizations learn to manage change in order to stay competitive and keep up with the rapidly changing market conditions. Change Management has therefore been a highly emphasized area within Business Administration. As new trends arise on the global market, it is important for organizations to be able to adapt. One of these trends is the implementation of the Activity-Based Flexible Office (A-FO). An Activity-Based Flexible Office consists of different areas with closed, half-open or open zones. The areas are created in order to match employee needs and the requirements of each work activity that needs to be conducted. As a result, no one is assigned a personal workstation, instead the employees move between different areas depending on what type of work activity they need to accomplish. Even though Change Management has been thoroughly investigated and A-FOs have been researched to some extent, no previous research has been found regarding the change process of implementing an A-FO. The main purpose of this thesis is to investigate the difference in managers’ and employees’ perceptions regarding the change process towards an A-FO. As a result, a deeper understanding of change management as well as of the effects of the A-FO will be provided from the viewpoints of managers and employees. This leads to the research questions: “How does the perception of the change process concerning activity-based flexible offices differ between managers and employees? What do managers and employees perceive as essential factors of the change process and A-FO implementation and how do these perceptions differ?”. The Theoretical Framework mainly consist of previous research models and theories regarding change management literature, work environment and activity-based flexible offices as well as employee satisfaction. Communication has also been chosen as an important factor as it has been stated to be vital in both change management and within the A-FO. Furthermore, in order to fulfil the purpose of the thesis and answer the research questions, the chosen research method for this study is qualitative with an exploratory research design and an inductive approach. Therefore, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven respondents from a department at Skellefteå municipality who were chosen based on a combination of a purposive and snowball sampling method. After the interviews were transcribed, the empirical findings were analyzed and presented by using a thematic analysis. The findings show that when conducting an A-FO change process, managers’ and employees’ perceptions often differ. Managers often focus on the practical aspects of a change, while employees emphasized on “soft values”. Employees were also more skeptical towards the change in the beginning, compared to managers, and seemed more aware of possible disturbances in the A-FO. Furthermore, both managers and employees were highly satisfied with the change process and the implementation of the A-FO, but emphasized on different factors resulting in increased satisfaction. To conclude, since managers’ and employees’ perception regarding the A-FO change process often differ, but can also coincide, it is important to take both aspects into consideration when conducting this type of change. By involving everyone in the change process, it is more likely to be successful.

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