Open-Plan Offices : The Importance of the Ambient Conditions´ Characteristics for Employee Satisfaction

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet; Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet


The ambient conditions such as air quality, noise, music, temperature, lighting and colour, in open-plan offices and their impact on employees are important for managements to recognize because open-plan offices are becoming more and more common in Swedish companies' office design today (Aronsson, 2005). For students, who will soon be entering the work force, it is important to understand how the characteristics of the ambient conditions can influence employee behaviour/satisfaction.

To have a working knowledge of what kinds of effects the ambient conditions can have is likely to increase one's chances of becoming a satisfied employee. An employee that is aware of the importance of creating a servicescape (the attributes of the physical surrounding) that meets its needs and desires is likely to enhance its satisfaction in the ambient conditions. A great number of managements may not be aware of the risks of working in an open-plan office where the ambient conditions are not satisfying the employees; ergonomic issues as well as heart diseases are the most serious results (Evans and Johnson, 2000, pp. 780-782). This leads to the problem formulation of this thesis: "How can management improve employee satisfaction in an open-plan office through the characteristics of a servicescape's ambient conditions?”.

Four main theories are included in the Theoretical Framework to provide a deep understanding for the reader about the complexity of problems that comes with working in an open-plan office. The Bitner theory and the research compiled by Sundstrom discuss ambient conditions and their impacts on employees' behaviour/satisfaction. Evans and Johnson’s theory discusses how stress is related to low-intensity noise. The final main theory, Person-Environment Fit, upholds the importance of a servicescape that fits employees’ needs and desires.

The ambient conditions influence employee behaviours in numerous ways (Davis, 1984, pp. 271) and at Sogeti’s open-plan office several ambient conditions are studied through an observation conducted during April 17th 2007 and a questionnaire with 15 closed questions. The outcomes of the observation and the questionnaire are analysed and concrete proposals are created for the Sogeti management to act upon in order to improve the characteristics of their open-plan office’s ambient conditions and thereby improve employee satisfaction.

One of the concrete proposals to how Sogeti may improve the ambient conditions in their open-plan office is to introduce a survey that should be handed out to the employees three or four times a year. The purpose of the survey is to define employees’ perceptions of the different ambient conditions.

Based on the outcomes from the survey, employees’ needs and desires of the servicescape, the ambient conditions’ characteristics, can be improved. Also, some examples of actions geared towards reducing the level of noise in the Sogeti open-plan office are to use ear phones when listening to music and to leave the open-plan office when conducting phone calls. The concrete proposals developed based on the Sogeti employees’ perceptions of the ambient conditions in the open-plan office are outcomes of this thesis that may serve as a tool for the Sogeti management to improve the ambient conditions of their servicescape and thereby increase employee satisfaction.

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