Post-Pandemic Office Work: Perceived Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Work Environment
- Identify the benefits and drawbacks of remote work during the pandemic from employee and leadership perspectives;
- Map expected challenges and potentials of hybrid working scenarios to inform the creation of sustainable future work environments.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study 1
2.2. Study 2
2.3. Data Analysis
3.1. The Adoption of Remote Work As a New Way of Working
3.2. Social Aspects of Remote Work
3.3. Leadership Perspective on Remote Work and Managers’ Work Environment Responsibilities
- Reading and interpreting subtle signals in online meetings and phone calls and getting a sense of how employees really feel.
- Identifying and supporting those employees who experience anxiety, stress, isolation, overload, overload, etc., despite difficulties with reading subtle signals in video calls.
- Creating group cohesion, for example, in Figure 4a: “Our major need is now to care for our community and create situations for play and fun, so that we don’t only focus on our Excel files. There is no slack in online meetings. You ‘cut the crap’. In face-to-face meetings, anything can happen. We have to find such nuances and the ‘we-feeling’ when working online” (P6-M1).
- Navigating increased complexity and personalising leadership styles to support the diversity of individual employees depending on their needs, tasks, and preferences.
- Finding strategies to motivate employees.
- Ensuring employees feel a shared sense of purpose and understanding of the bigger picture in relation to the organisation: “It feels quite lonely when you sit alone in a wardrobe and work, like I do. […] We have to learn to collaborate better and focus on the main goals of our work. Many don’t know that they work with similar tasks and contribute to a larger purpose” (P9-M1).
- Developing new leadership skills that allow one to adapt quickly to constant changes and find innovative solutions: “Flexibility, responsiveness and creativity are leadership qualities of the future” (P4-M1).
3.4. Return to Offices after the Pandemic and Moving towards the Hybrid Work Model
- Worries about potential infection risks, which will put pressure on the employers to ensure a safe workplace where distancing will be possible: “It is not appropriate to have a flexible office, where everyone moves around and can sit anywhere. We should have dedicated spaces for different groups to minimise the risk of having one group that infects everyone else” (P6- WS2). Otherwise, the organisation would be more vulnerable and at risk of having more employees on sick leave than what is ideal.
- The ergonomics of home offices: “Home offices are never as good as the ergonomically designed workplace. I have had pain in my hand, forearm, back and shoulders because of the mouse I use. I try to have different postures and use a smaller mouse” (P2-M1). Employers are therefore expected to take a more proactive approach to support employees with guidance and a means to ensure better home office ergonomics: “Many of us need better ergonomics, if we are to work from home (P15-WS4).
- The design shortcomings of offices, such as limited spaces for uninterrupted online meetings at offices due to few individual rooms, open spaces with unwanted distractions, spaces that are perceived as more sterile than the home environment, and (for some) the inconvenience of clean-desking as opposed to working from home.
4.1. Sense of Coherence in Remote and Hybrid Work Models
4.2. Implications from a Leadership Perspective
4.3. Implications for Achieving Sustainability Goals
4.4. Study Context and Limitations
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
- Charalampous, M.; Grant, C.A.; Tramontano, C.; Michailidis, E. Systematically reviewing remote e-workers’ well-being at work: A multidimensional approach. Eur. J. Work Organ. Psychol. 2018, 28, 51–73. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Shifrin, N.V.; Michel, J.S. Flexible work arrangements and employee health: A meta-analytic review. Work Stress 2021, 1–26. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Nayani, R.J.; Nielsen, K.; Daniels, K.; Donaldson-Feilder, E.J.; Lewis, R.C. Out of sight and out of mind? A literature review of occupational safety and health leadership and management of distributed workers. Work Stress 2017, 32, 124–146. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Barrero, J.M.; Bloom, N.; Davis, S. Why Working from Home Will Stick; National Bureau of Economic Research: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2021; Available online: https://www.nber.org/papers/w28731 (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Bloom, N. How Working from Home Works Out. 2020. Available online: https://api.includere.co/uploads/Stanford Research-How working from home works out-June 2020.pdf (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Sostero, M.; Milasi, S.; Hurley, J.; Fernandez-Macias, E.; Bisello, M. Teleworkability and the COVID-19 Crisis: A New Digital Divide? No. 2020/05, Seville, 2020. Available online: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/www.econstor.eu (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Yang, L.; Holtz, D.; Jaffe, S.; Suri, S.; Sinha, S.; Weston, J.; Joyce, C.; Shah, N.; Sherman, K.; Hecht, B.; et al. The effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers. Nat. Hum. Behav. 2021, 1–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Baert, S.; Lippens, L.; Moens, E.; Weytjens, J.; Sterkens, P. The COVID-19 Crisis and Telework: A Research Survey on Experiences, Expectations and Hopes. SSRN Electron J. 2020. Available online: https://www.ssrn.com/abstract=3596696 (accessed on 12 December 2021). [CrossRef]
- Lippens, L.; Moens, E.; Sterkens, P.; Weytjens, J.; Baert, S. How do employees think the COVID-19 crisis will affect their careers? PLoS ONE 2021, 16. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Kirchner, K.; Ipsen, C.; Hansen, J.P. COVID-19 leadership challenges in knowledge work. Knowl. Manag. Res. Pract. 2021, 19, 1–8. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Bolisani, E.; Scarso, E.; Ipsen, C.; Kirchner, K.; Hansen, J.P. Working from home during COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned and issues. Manag. Mark. Challenges Knowl. Soc. 2020, 15, 458–476. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ipsen, C.; van Veldhoven, M.; Kirchner, K.; Hansen, J.P. Six Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Working from Home in Europe during COVID-19. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 1826. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hallman, D.M.; Januario, L.B.; Mathiassen, S.E.; Heiden, M.; Svensson, S.; Bergström, G. Working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden: Effects on 24-h time-use in office workers. BMC Public Health 2021, 21, 1–10. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Widar, L.; Wiitavaara, B.; Boman, E.; Heiden, M. Psychophysiological Reactivity, Postures and Movements among Academic Staff: A Comparison between Teleworking Days and Office Days. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 9537. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Neumayr, T.; Jetter, H.-C.; Augstein, M.; Friedl, J.; Luger, T. Domino. Domino: A Descriptive Framework for Hybrid Collaboration and Coupling Styles in Partially Distributed Teams. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact 2018, 2, 1–24. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Neumayr, T.; Saatci, B.; Rintel, S.; Klokmose, C.N.; Augstein, M. What was Hybrid? A Systematic Review of Hybrid Collaboration and Meetings Re-search. ACM Trans. Comput. Interact 2021. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Andersen, S.N. Participatory Simulation in Hospital Work System Design. DTU Management Engineering. 2016. Available online: https://backend.orbit.dtu.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/128050417/Thesis_FINAL_Simone_Nyholm_Andersen.pdf (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Raby, R.; Lehmann, W.; Helleiner, J.; Easterbrook, R.; Easterbrook, R. Reflections on Using Participant-Generated, Digital Photo-Elicitation in Research With Young Canadians About Their First Part-Time Jobs. Int. J. Qual. Methods 2018, 17. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Warren, S. ‘Show Me How It Feels to Work Here’: Using Photography to Research Organizational Aesthetics. Crit. Dialogues Organ. 2002, 2, 224–245. [Google Scholar]
- Warren, S. Photography in Qualitative Organizational Research: Conceptual, Analytical and Ethical Issues in Photo-elicitation Inspired Methods. In The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods; SAGE: London, UK, 2018. [Google Scholar]
- Schwandt, T.A. Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Eval. Program Plann. 1996, 19, 106–107. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Fredriksson, A.; Wolf-Watz, O. Mapping and Analysis of Conditions for Working from Home during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Gävle, Sweden. 2021. Available online: https://sawee.se/publications/mapping-and-analysis-of-conditions-for-working-from-home-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Bentley, T.; Green, N.; Tappin, D.; Haslam, R. State of science: The future of work—Ergonomics and human factors contributions to the field. Ergonomics 2021, 64, 427–439. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Antonovsky, A. Unraveling the Mystery of Health: How People Manage Stress and Stay Well; Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA, USA, 1987. [Google Scholar]
- Antonovsky, A. The salutogenic model as a theory to guide health promotion. Health Promot. Int. 1996, 11, 11–18. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Choudhury, P.; Foroughi, C.; Larson, B. Work-from-anywhere: The productivity effects of geographic flexibility. Strat. Manag. J. 2021, 42, 655–683. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Bloom, N.; Liang, J.; Roberts, J.; Ying, Z.J. Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment *. Q. J. Econ. 2015, 130, 165–218. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Ozcelik, H.; Barsade, S. Work loneliness and employee performance. Acad. Manag. Proc. 2011, 2011, 1–6. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Richardson, J.; McKenna, S. Reordering Spatial and Social Relations: A Case Study of Professional and Managerial Flexworkers. Br. J. Manag. 2013, 25, 724–736. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Bakker, A.; Demerouti, E. The Job Demands-Resources model: State of the art. J. Manag. Psychol. 2007, 22, 309–328. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Ter Hoeven, C.L.; van Zoonen, W. Flexible work designs and employee well-being: Examining the effects of resources and demands. New Technol. Work Employ 2015, 30, 237–255. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Chafi, M.B.; Harder, M.; Danielsson, C.B. Workspace preferences and non-preferences in Activity-based Flexible Offices: Two case studies. Appl. Ergon. 2020, 83, 102971. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Danielsson, C.B.; Chungkham, H.S.; Wulff, C.; Westerlund, H. Office design’s impact on sick leave rates. Ergonomics 2014, 57, 139–147. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- De Croon, E.M.; Sluiter, J.K.; Kuijer, P.P.F.; Frings-Dresen, M.H.W. The effect of office concepts on worker health and performance: A systematic review of the literature. Ergonomics 2005, 48, 119–134. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Engelen, L.; Chau, J.; Young, S.; Mackey, M.; Jeyapalan, D.; Bauman, A. Is activity-based working impacting health, work performance and perceptions? A systematic review. Build. Res. Inf. 2019, 47, 468–479. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Cordero, A.C.; Babapour, M.; Karlsson, M. Feel well and do well at work. J. Corp. Real Estate 2019, 22, 113–137. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Forooraghi, M.; Cobaleda-Cordero, A.; Chafi, M.B. A healthy office and healthy employees: A longitudinal case study with a salutogenic perspective in the context of the physical office environment. Build. Res. Inf. 2021, 1–18. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Bailenson, J.N. Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue. Technol. Mind Behav. 2021, 2. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Oprean, D.; Simpson, M.; Klippel, A. Collaborating remotely: An evaluation of immersive capabilities on spatial experiences and team membership. Int. J. Digit. Earth 2017, 11, 420–436. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Dolce, V.; Vayre, E.; Molino, M.; Ghislieri, C. Far Away, So Close? The Role of Destructive Leadership in the Job Demands–Resources and Recovery Model in Emergency Telework. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 196. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Schoorman, F.D.; Mayer, R.C.; Davis, J.H. An Integrative Model of Organizational Trust: Past, Present, and Future. Acad. Manag. Rev. 2007, 32, 344–354. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Hook, A.; Court, V.; Sovacool, B.K.; Sorrell, S. A systematic review of the energy and climate impacts of teleworking. Environ. Res. Lett. 2020, 15, 093003. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Weitz, N.; Carlsen, H.; Nilsson, M.; Skånberg, K. Towards systemic and contextual priority setting for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Sustain. Sci. 2018, 13, 531–548. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed][Green Version]
- EU Commition. Digital Economy and Society Index 2021: Overall Progress in Digital Transition but Need for New EU-Wide Efforts Main Findings of the 2021 DESI in the Four Areas. Brussels. 2021. Available online: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_5481 (accessed on 12 December 2021).
- Bringselius, L. Vad är tillitsbaserad styrning och ledning? In Styra Och Leda Med Tillit: Forskning Och Praktik; Regeringskansliet, Norstedts Juridik AB: Stockholm, Sweden, 2018. [Google Scholar]
- Yin, R.K. A (very) brief refresher on the case study method. Appl. Case Study Res. 2012, 3, 3–20. [Google Scholar]
- Eisenhardt, K.M.; Graebner, M.E. Theory Building From Cases: Opportunities And Challenges. Acad. Manag. J. 2007, 50, 25–32. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Yin, R.K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods; Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA, USA, 2009. [Google Scholar]
- Stappers, P.; Sleeswijk-Visser, F.; Keller, I. Mapping the Experiential Context of Product Use: Generative techniques beyond questions and observations. In Proceedings of the 6th Asian Design International Conference, Tsukuba, Japan, 14–17 October 2003. [Google Scholar]
|Opportunities of Remote Work||Challenges of Remote Work|
|Work Environment Opportunities||Work Environment Challenges|
|Work Environment Opportunities||Work Environment Challenges|
|Individual and group level||Individual and group level|
|Group level||Group level|
|Leadership level||Leadership level|
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Share and Cite
Babapour Chafi, M.; Hultberg, A.; Bozic Yams, N. Post-Pandemic Office Work: Perceived Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Work Environment. Sustainability 2022, 14, 294. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010294
Babapour Chafi M, Hultberg A, Bozic Yams N. Post-Pandemic Office Work: Perceived Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Work Environment. Sustainability. 2022; 14(1):294. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010294Chicago/Turabian Style
Babapour Chafi, Maral, Annemarie Hultberg, and Nina Bozic Yams. 2022. "Post-Pandemic Office Work: Perceived Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Work Environment" Sustainability 14, no. 1: 294. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010294