Stephen Frey, an excellent Linkedin contact asked the following question:

“Craig Knight offers interesting insight about the relevance of DIY office design on the team and individual level, and how it from his point of view, cultivates strong engagement and company culture. Craig, any independent industry studies supporting your findings, not just from IDR and IDL? How has this approach been delivered within organizations large and small, especially those with strong onsite operations, facility management and design support infrastructure in place? Is there an online kit of parts of types of workspaces from individual to group to choose from supported by FM”

Stephen was kind enough to link his question to a 3 minute video:

To give the answer the comment deserves takes more characters than Linkedin allows, so here it is:

Hello Stephen, 

Thank you for your question and for allowing me to clear up some potential misconceptions, much appreciated.  Let’s start with the idea of a viewpoint.  My teams and I do not ever promulgate a “point of view”.  There are more than enough of the things about as it is.

Since 2003, we have always operated from the perspective of the modesty of science.  We test competing versions – or opinions, if you like – of what makes the best management style and design choices.  We do this first in a laboratory setting and then in the workplace (note in passing that there is no scientific need to pursue the latter option.  The laboratory belongs in the real world every bit as much as does the office. What works in one will almost always work in the other.  However, business is a dull beast that needs clear signalling.  I am a commercial animal and so my teams oblige).

We will test one option (say a highly managed office) against another (perhaps a more laissez faire environment) and usually against a third or even fourth option (maybe a space where the employees develop their own ideas).  Typically we weigh two extant and very popular management styles (e.g., Six Sigma and Bureaucratic methodologies) against what would seem to be more psychologically/scientifically plausible models.

We use quantitative and qualitative measures of meaningful commercial variables (e.g., productivity, identity and well-being) and, in a nutshell, we see what wins over the long term.  So you see opinion is tested by scientific methods.  The methods are then tested by peer review – which is about as strict a test as exists.  So the results about which I write are as impartial as we can make them and as far removed from just ‘opinion’ as possible.

At the foot of this answer is a relatively short list of independent pieces of peer reviewed research that support the applied research we have done.  There is also a full list of peer reviewed scientific papers that support the opposite position; it isn’t awfully long. 

Our work constantly surprises businesses which, for example, struggle to understand why a bare minimalist space – high in surveillance, low in autonomy and in which people have to lock everything away at night for fear of sanction – is an unproductive working environment.  Psychology, neuro-psychology, neuro-science, medicine and biology understand perfectly why such an environment can be nothing other than entirely toxic.

As for your kit of parts, this may help.  It is quite easy to recognize and correct an appalling space.  Consider the place described in the paragraph above and simply do the opposite in every degree.  You will have a significantly, measurably better office as a result. FM could certainly play an important role in this regard. 

Achieving best practice is harder but far from impossible.  I would happy to help any business achieve an optimum output based not on opinion but on thoroughly tested robust and longitudinally consistent evidence. It is kind of what I do.  Incidentally at the recent London Corenet I was told that the applied science that my teams and I undertake is the most advanced and applicable in the world (we are currently exploring improving effective intelligence in the workspace and the psychological application of design).  Top commendations are, of course, always subjective, but we are certainly prominent in the vanguard.  And always happy to help.

Stephen, I suspect that you know most – if not all – of this already and you were playing a useful devil’s advocate role.  Thank you for that.  I hope this answer has clarified how we work. 

(Just some) peer reviewed references that support our work:

Ashforth, B. E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. Academyof Management Review, 14, 20-39.

Bain, P., & Taylor, P. (2000). Entrapped by the ‘electronic panopticon’? Worker resistance in the call centre.         New Technology Work and Employment, 15, 2-18.

Becker, J.A.H., & O’Hair, H.D. (2007). Machiavellians’ motives in organizational citizenship behaviour.  Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35, 246 –267.

Cornelissen, J. P., Haslam, S. A., & Balmer, J. M. T. (2007). Social identity, organizational identity and corporate identity: Towards an integrated understanding of processes, patternings and products. British Journal of Management, 18, 1-16.

Ellemers, N., De Gilder, D., & Haslam, S. A. (2004). Motivating individuals and groups at work: A social identity perspective on leadership and group performance. Academy of Management Review, 29, 459-478.

Elsbach, K.D., & Bechky, B.A. (2007). It’s more than a desk: Working smarter through leveraged office design.  California Management Review,49, 80-87.

Kreiner G. E., & Ashforth, B. E. (2004).  Evidence toward an expanded model of organizational identification. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 1-27.

Messer, B.A.E., & White, F.E. (2006).  Employees’ mood, perceptions of fairness, and organizational citizenship behaviour.  Journal of Business and Psychology, 21, 65-82.    

van Dick, R., Christ, O., & Stellmacher, J. (2004). Should I stay or should I go? Explaining turnover intentions with organizational identification and job satisfaction.British Journal of Management, 15, 351-360.

Veitch, J.A., Charles, K.E., Farley, K.M. J., & Newsham, G.R.(2007). A model of satisfaction with open-plan office conditions: COPE field findings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 177-189. 

Some of the stuff with which I have been involved:

Knight, C.P., & Haslam, S.A. (2010). Your place or mine? Organizational identification and comfort as mediators of relationships between the managerial control of workspace and employees’ satisfaction and well-being. British Journal of Management, 21, 717-735.

Knight, C.P., & Haslam, S.A. (2010). The relative merits of lean, enriched, and empowered Offices: An experimental examination of the impact of workspace management, Journal of Experimental: Applied, 16, 158 – 172.

Nieuwenhuis, M, Knight, C.P., Postmes, T., & Haslam, S.A. (2014). The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. Vol 20, 199-21

Finally a comprehensive scan of scientific peer reviewed support for Six Sigma/Lean:

…yes, that’s it.