Dealing with data variety - Information Worker's Workplace (IWWP)
Within the joint research project OFFICE 21® the Fraunhofer IAO surveyed the possible positive effect of several parallel used screens on the efficiency of knowledge work. The question is reasonable as a typical side effect of knowledge work is the parallel processing of several, mainly electronic documents; respectively the frequent change between different applications or data files. Therefore it is not surprising that knowledge work can be designed more efficient if the affected people have the opportunity to see all different files at the same time thanks to bigger or more screens.
At first 67 volunteers had to do different tasks at a 19-inch screen. Subsequent to this first run the volunteers were departed in three groups and been faced the same working tasks again.
- The first group did the tasks at a 19-inch-monitor once more. The learning effect led to an increase in productivity by 1.9 per cent.
- The second group worked in the second run with a 22-inch-widescreen-monitor. The better view (including the learning effect) led to an increase in productivity by 8.4 per cent.
- The highest increase in productivity by 35.5 per cent was registered in the third group. This group did use three parallel 19-inch-monitors, the so called "Information Worker's Workplace".
The necessary investment in additional monitors can therefore be quickly redeemed through shorter processing times and less error rates.
Regarding the planning and furnishing of office workstations this implies that a sufficient desk depth has to be considered. When using several screens an adequate viewing distance for every screen should be achieved. Here a desk depth of 80 cm might be (too) short.
As manifold as the forms of knowledge work are the requirements of workplace design. Therefore only some office planning issues are described with possible solutions in the following.
Further hints on office design can be found in the three journals "Erfolgsfaktor Büro", which can be ordered here.
Rooms as „multiplier“ of corporate culture – Autonomy and creative requirements
Creativity is mainly supported by the content-related dimensions of work – or slowed down. These include the autonomy of workplace design in terms of content-related, time-related and spatial freedom as well as the diversity of challenges and the stipulated amount of creativity.
Office furnishings can be supporting in three ways: First by composing the organizational framework, second by visualizing the faith of management in their employees, and third by motivating through an attractive atmosphere.
Hints for designing office workstations
- Avoid monotony in the working environment. Good ideas come across suddenly and very often after a change of location. Communication and rest areas should vary significantly from "normal" workstations. Colours, forms and materials offer a wide range of possibilities.
- Create space for privacy. Pass a bit freedom to your employees to allow for personal "design" of their workplace. In non-territorial offices it might be more difficult to obtain, but the own container or individually chosen working materials allow at least for a little creative leeway.
- Think of the health of your employees. Creativity, motivation and health are closely connected. Therefore you should provide ergonomic workstations. Very important are comfortable sitting and the possibility to adjust swivel chair and desk in height according to the height of the employee.
Rooms as pulser – communication and concentration
Informal – usually unscheduled and not subject to any directives – communication is the most important knowledge source within practical day-to-day business and origin of many creative ideas. Hence modern office concepts focus on the precise strengthening of this form of communication. Here it is not important if the employees are working in small cell offices or in groups in wide and open offices. The determining factor is the possibility to meet colleagues and to have undisturbed conversations.
Regarding the planning and design of offices that implies to create areas in which everyone can communicate with everybody, and to create areas in which a focused and undisturbed working is ensured.
Hints for designing office workstations
- Room for informal communication can be created by standings desks at the workplace or by additional sitting accommodations or at spatially divided areas, e.g. the kitchen, cafeteria, lounge etc.
- In order to be truly effective the communication areas have to be functional as well as appealing. Furthermore, the employee needs to know that conversations with colleagues are desired. Hence it is important, that a feeling of continuous observation is avoided. One option would be the visual and acoustic separation of these areas.
- The acoustic separation is also important because of other reasons: The unavoidable listening of conversations is the most frequent cause for disturbances at the workplace. Areas of communications should therefore also be separated in big and group offices, e.g. by the help of partition panels or attachments on desks.