|dc.description.abstract||Both academics and practitioners have devoted increasing attention to the physical work environment (i.e. the constructed spaces in which employees work, including buildings, furniture and spatial design) as a result of continued changes to the nature of work, and the space where it is enacted. Although there have been many studies of environmental effects on employees, including experimentation and a great deal of applied change, the field lacks a consistent theoretical framework to progress the extant literature. This is reflected in the inconsistency with which the physical environment has been assessed across research studies. Moreover, most researchers have focused on specific aspects of the environment, not the individual reactions those aspects produce. In my program of research, I develop a theoretical framework and scale to assess employees’ psychological reactions to the physical work environment in terms of cognitive, affective and relational responses. Across a series of studies, I establish the reliability and validity of this scale and examine how the scale predicts organizational citizenship behavior, collaboration and job engagement within the workplace.
To start my program of research, I initially establish the lack of a cohesive framework for considering the physical work environment. To address this issue, I argue that it is necessary to focus on an individual’s reactions to the environment and develop a framework to understand the psychological effects of physical work environments by considering employees cognitive, affective and relational responses to those environments. The three-part framework I develop comprises the following constructs: focus, sense of beauty, and connectedness. Focus refers to the extent to which the physical environment enhances one’s ability to concentrate on relevant work; Sense of beauty refers to how much the physical work environment promotes a positive visceral response to its appearance and form; and connectedness, a key relational reaction to the work environment, is the extent to which the physical environment facilitates a sense of community and a feeling of belonging to that environment.
My research questions and hypotheses were explored using a multiple methods approach. The resulting program of research was conducted using a primarily quantitative approach within a post-positivist paradigm.
In Chapter 1, I provide a background and introduction to the dissertation including justifying my broad research questions. In Chapter 2, I review the literature across a diverse range of fields under which research on this topic has been undertaken. I develop a theoretical framework to assess psychological reactions to the physical work environment in Chapter 3. This theoretical framework is operationalized in Chapter 4 where I generate items based on my literature review and Delphi interviews. The aim of this study was to validate a scale of reactions to the physical work environment based on this framework. After generating items, I undertake two pilot studies to test a pool of items before refining the final list of items for my new measure. Study 1 confirmed the items, the three-factor structure and assessed discriminant validity with positive and negative affect and psychological empowerment.
In Chapter 5, I outline a study to further validate the scale and begin to test predictive validity. Study Two examines the final item pool’s test-retest reliability and nomological relationships in relation to organizational citizenship behaviour, collaboration and job engagement. In Study 2, I also test the theoretical model I developed, specifically with regard to organizational citizenship behaviour, collaboration and job engagement. The results of this testing support my assertion that psychological reactions to the physical work environment are cognitive, affective and relational and that the dimensions of my framework have predictive validity. In my final chapter, Chapter 6, I outline the overall results, draw out emerging themes and note the contributions to research and practice that emerge from my program of research. Specifically, the model and scale provide a consistent lens for measuring and interpreting the results of studies of the physical environment. The research findings, limitations, and implications for practice and theory are discussed.
The results of these studies offer several contributions to research and practice. Firstly, I offer researchers a theoretical lens for studying environments linked to psychological reactions that is applicable across a range of work settings. The model that has emerged from my research offers a comprehensive and consistent lens through which the physical environment can be theorized, and the new scale provides a straightforward operationalization of that model. The model and scale will allow future researchers to compare findings, identify similarities and differences in psychological reactions to the physical work environment, and thereby accumulate a body of knowledge. Finally, the findings in relation to organizational citizenship behaviour, collaboration and job engagement respond to calls in the literature to build on research and theory on active psychological states by arguing that the physical work environment promotes psychological reactions that play an important role in predicting organizational citizenship behaviour, collaboration and job engagement. Importantly, the results demonstrate the importance of designing workplaces that balance the needs of employees to undertake focused concentrated work, as well as interact and collaborate with others. This is significant as the current direction in the design of physical environments at work is heavily biased toward driving interaction and collaboration at the expense of quiet, private, workspace.
Given that billions of dollars are being spent annually on workplace environments, I anticipate this research will support managers and organizations in making decisions about the type of environments most likely to enhance employee performance. By understanding how employees react to the physical work environment, managers and organizations will be better able to address the cognitive, affective and relational needs of their employees. Further, managers and organizations will be able to understand how those reactions influence organizational citizenship behavior, collaboration and job engagement.||