|Many employers today choose to implement Activity Based Workplaces (ABWs) with the
intention to promote productivity, innovation and effectiveness. The idea of implementing an
ABW is to have workspaces adapted to different kinds of work activities. As the office concept
changes, the employees’ behavior patterns are also expected to change. The management
introduces new rules and structures which serve as a guide on how the office should be used.
Despite extensive preparatory work, however, many organizations experience the that office is
not being used as intended.
The aim of this study is to examine how organizational culture affects the usage of ABWs and
how ABWs can affect organizational culture. The study is based on ten qualitative interviews
with employees at an IT consulting company which has recently implemented an ABW. The
interviewees answered questions concerning the usage of the office and their experience of the
organizational culture. In the study, organizational culture is divided into formal and informal
organizational culture. While formal organizational culture is based on structure and rules set
by management informal organizational culture seeks to describe more abstract phenomena that
arise in the interpersonal interaction.
The result of the study shows that the employees' usage of the office is affected by both
formal and informal factors. A main finding shows that the relationship with colleagues
greatly influences how and if employees choose to use the office. This, in combination with
the new office design, leads to employees actively choosing a place to work based on where
the colleagues are sitting. Furthermore, the interviewees find that the new office design to
some extent creates obstacles to their cooperation with colleagues. Examples of such
obstacles are difficulties in locating one another and perceived lack of desired work spaces. A
conclusion drawn in this study, since new rules and structures have been created due to the
new office, is that the ABW influences the formal organizational culture. Furthermore, it is
concluded that the informal organizational culture is not affected by the implementation of
ABW. But since informal organizational culture changes over a longer period of time it is
possible that such consequences haven not yet appeared and hence do not fit within the frame
of this study. Regarding the usage of the activity-based office, a conclusion is drawn that both
formal and informal organizational culture affect the employees' behaviors.