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Creating Spaces That Are Right for People

Episode Summary

Today we are joined with Chantal Spruit, the chair of the Facility Management Netherlands Expert Group on Sustainability and Rob Klinkert, Portfolio Manager at PwC, and Hannah Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in Business at Liverpool John Moores University. Together they explore the topic of workplace design and sustainability the the lens of psychology.

Episode Notes

Today we are joined with Chantal Spruit, the chair of the Facility Management Netherlands Expert Group on Sustainability and Rob Klinkert, Portfolio Manager at PwC, and Hannah Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in Business at Liverpool John Moores University. Together they explore the topic of workplace design and sustainability the the lens of psychology.

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Episode Transcription

Hannah Wilson: [00:00:00] If you really think about how can we encourage positive working behaviors, and putting, thinking about that right from the beginning, you can encourage sustainable business practice as well. And going back to the idea of behavior, if you want to increase business performance, You've got to think about your people because they're the people who are working in this space and producing and working productively.


Host: to Connected FM, a podcast connecting you to the latest insights, tools, and resources to help you succeed in facility management. This podcast is brought to you by IFMA, the leading professional association for facility managers. If you are ready to grow your network and advance in your career, go to ifma.

org to get started. In today's podcast, we are joined with Chantal Spruit, the chair of the Facility Management Netherlands Expert Group on Sustainability. As well as Rob Klinker, the Portfolio Manager at PwC, and Hannah Wilson, a Senior [00:01:00] Lecturer in Research Methods in Business at Liverpool John Moores University.

Together they discuss the topic of workplace design and sustainability through the lens of psychology. Now, let's get into it.

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Chantal Spruit: Hi, my name is Chantal Spruit and I'm the chair of the facility management Netherlands expert group on sustainability. And with me today is my co host Rob.

Rob Klinkert: Welcome. My name is Rob Klinkert. Portfolio Manager at BWC within the space of Facility [00:02:00] Management and our guest of today is Hannah wilson. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Hannah Wilson: Yeah. Hi, my name's Dr. Hannah Wilson and I work at Liverpool John Moores University. So by day, my, my main focus is I'm DBA Programme Director. So I run a Doctorate of Business Administration. In the business school and my research focus is looking around workplace strategy, a little bit in pedagogy, but my main focus is benefiting employees experiences within the workplace, but.

My background's in psychology, so I come from that, like, individual perspective, looking at people's experiences, their perceptions of the environment, and the environment being physical and social as well.

Chantal Spruit: I think there's also a lot of interesting topics you've already mentioned, like the actual workplace, which we're all here for today, of course.

But also psychology and pedagogy, so I think that's going to be really interesting. But first I would like to ask you, because you were here yesterday as well at the conference, what were your experiences? Because I noticed, or at least I thought it was very human centered this year. How did you see that?

Hannah Wilson: No, absolutely. I [00:03:00] agree. It's been really nice. To be here and see people who are thinking very similarly to the way that I think and you can see that change. I've only been in this area for just over five years and I've seen a massive shift into more people looking at that kind of human centered perspective, focusing on the individuals, their experiences.

And so yesterday was fantastic seeing the different presentations that were focused on that, but also speaking to people. And I met so many people from a psychology background or people who were just interested in that perspective. So it's been actually really inspiring and it's really motivated me.

Chantal Spruit: That's really great to hear that you like re energize yourself on this topic and maybe you can tell a little bit more about the research you've been doing on this topic.

Hannah Wilson: The specific research is around psychological sense of community and workplace loneliness. This is a topic that I've been really passionate about for a long time, especially looking at psychological sense of community.

I did my [00:04:00] PhD looking at learning space design, designing higher education learning environments. And obviously coming from that psychological perspective and coming into the built environment, my immediate thought was, right, how do we design this space for individuals? And so I came across this theory of psychological sense of community, and it just really spoke to me about connecting the individual with that social structure, with the organization.

And I thought it was a really interesting theory and kind of concept. And then the more and more I read, people were talking about this as being relevant, sense of belonging, feeling connected. It also drawed on my experience as well of wanting to feel connected at that time to my university. But as I went into kind of academia, working and teaching, it moved into kind of more that workplace, seeing how relevant it was for colleagues, reading the literature around it, doing more practical research within organizations and really seeing how relevant that social connectedness was.

But that influence of community, which is [00:05:00] more looking at individual's perception of feeling connected to an organization and to others within the organization. And the idea of workplace loneliness really came from my passion around increasing people's experiences and looking at wellbeing within the workplace.

Rob Klinkert: But how are we lonely? Because it triggers me loneliness at the workplace. So I may imagine a completely empty office and then I feel lonely. But maybe you think something different about the definition about

Hannah Wilson: loneliness. Loneliness is a massively pervasive issue. It doesn't mean. that people are there, like next to you, you can be lonely and have loads of people around you.

It's about your perception of the connectedness with others and how you feel about being connected. So you can be in an office with a hundred people and feel lonely, or you can be in an office with no people and feel connected to people and not feel lonely.

Rob Klinkert: Okay, but I think it's difficult to measure loneliness.

Because if you ask people, okay, are you lonely, [00:06:00] how is the research you're doing connecting with loneliness?

Hannah Wilson: There's been a definition of loneliness. A few people have tried to look at it. It's interesting as well, the multifaceted nature of loneliness, looking at it in terms of in the workplace or at home, they're separate things.

So you can feel lonely in the workplace, have a full, fulfilled family life. There is some crossover. Also, if you look at loneliness specifically and what we mean by that, Looking at social companionship, but also your emotional deprivation. So you're not feeling emotionally fulfilled by others. It's this multifaceted approach.

And so I use a psychological measure, a survey tool to try and measure people's workplace loneliness. Obviously, there's issues with using quantitative measures to try and measure something that's quite complex. And it is something that moving forward past this research. I'd like to explore more in depth what we mean by loneliness in the workplace because it's something that's thoroughly under researched but is very prevalent.

It's a [00:07:00] massively pervasive issue. And it's something that since COVID as well, people are talking about more as being important. People are talking about things like social isolation, et cetera, and workplace loneliness is this issue that people are interested in and is a facet of wellbeing that currently isn't understood and explored.

Rob Klinkert: What are the main findings you have to find out in your research? What are the outcomes?

Hannah Wilson: So, my research was looking at the relationship between psychological sense of community and workplace loneliness. And I find that there is a negative relationship between these two factors. So, if an individual feels That they have this sense of community with their organization, which again is a multifaceted element.

You're looking at the meaning somebody puts to an organization, to how fulfilled they feel with their needs. That's a multifaceted idea as well. It's quite complex, but it's their perception of the connectedness to the organization. Find a negative relationship with workplace loneliness. So the higher [00:08:00] somebody felt connected.

That psychological sense of community, the less they felt that experience workplace loneliness. And what I found was even more interesting is I found a mediated effect. So I love my quantitative statistical ideas, but what that basically means is that part of the relationship between. Psychological sense of community and workplace loneliness is explained by relationship quality.

So psychological sense of community can increase people's feelings of relationship quality. So having better relationships with others, which therefore reduces their workplace loneliness, that helps to explain that relationship. So if an organization. Looks at workplace loneliness slightly differently and takes it away from how it's currently considered as an individual issue.

So looking at people's personality and their workplace loneliness. So perhaps people who are introverted are going to be higher in workplace loneliness. It's taking the, like, onus off an [00:09:00] individual and saying, look, us as an organization can do something to support an individual's feelings of being connected to the organization and with others, we can do something which will increase their relationship quality with individuals in work, whether that be their team or the larger organization.

And then that will help support their feelings around workplace loneliness.

Rob Klinkert: Isn't it be very difficult because it's more like multi discipline, because maybe it's taught from the management, from the board, maybe from HR. So I'm wondering, not too complex.

Hannah Wilson: Yeah. Oh, that's a fantastic question. And something that I talk about all the time, coming from a background of psychology.

I've come into the built environment and now I work in management, so I would call myself very multidisciplinary. That's the world that I work in and my gosh, it's complex for me just trying to think about. But yeah, trying to implement these [00:10:00] strategies, I think does take a very multidisciplinary approach.

And I think that's what we need to be moving towards siloed sections within an organization, we need to be able to have more joined up thinking between the two. Because HR are going to be very relevant. They're, they look at supporting individuals through policies and practices. Facilities managers, we look at looking at through more the form and the structure of the space.

They are so integrated with each other. They rely on each other so much. And then the managers as well, the impact of trying to communicate all of that information. So I think we need to have that more joined up thinking. And I think that's why I've been really excited at this conference, because there's so many people from all those different backgrounds, and we are starting to have those conversations more, and people are starting to see the relevance of it, and it'll just be great to see how that evolves and In past practice and what we actually do, some organizations do have that joined up thinking [00:11:00] and facilities managers, HR, they do sit together.

Whereas in some organizations, they're still completely different entity and sit in different ends of the office, top floor, bottom floor.

Rob Klinkert: All the own kingdoms, we must reduce them.

Hannah Wilson: We must, yeah, exactly.

Chantal Spruit: And then I'm very curious, what do you think is needed in terms of like information or skills from either facility managers or workplace managers to tackle this problem?

Hannah Wilson: Oh, that's really interesting. I think we need more education, expanding our understanding. And I think something that I'm really interested in doing as well with my colleague is going back to what is the definition of what we're trying to do, redefining. The possibilities of facilities management and looking at as a wider entity, looking at the idea of workplace.

It's something that I'm really passionate about. So in the UK, our professional body has renamed itself. We branded itself as Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management. And I think that's a really exciting thing that they've done because that's [00:12:00] recognizing like the complexity of what we do and opening up more opportunities.

And I think that's enabling people to recognize that we need to be doing this and we need to be working across and using all of the knowledge and skills. That are just so relevant. So when I was doing my PhD, I'm speaking to people from architecture, speaking to people from psychology, business, art and design everywhere and bringing this knowledge together.

And I was like, wow, you look at it from this perspective. What about this perspective? And it's just great to start opening those conversations up.

Rob Klinkert: I understand the connection with more physiological part and social part. I understand very well, but how does it connect with design?

Hannah Wilson: Great question. And I actually just want to take a little bit of a step back and explain why I think those things are connected.

So. I came across somebody, he's a social psychologist called Kurt Lewin, I hope I'm saying that right, in Britain we usually say Lewin, and it's not that, so Lewin, and behaviour was a function of the person [00:13:00] and the environment, and he said that the environment was both the social environment But also the physical environment.

So the way that somebody behaves, it's due to them as a person, but also their social environment and their physical environment. So that kind of got me really thinking that actually the space is really important. The physical environment was really important for how we experience and behave with each other.

Then I came across David Cantor. He's an environmental psychologist and he talked about place attachment. And he talked about the place. Which I've already talked about being workplace as being combined form. So the structure, the environment, the activities and the meaning of that space. So again, I was like, Oh, actually that physical space is really important for how we experience place.

And now place attachment is something that increases our sense of belonging, that we feel attached to that place. So then if we're looking at workplace loneliness and sense of community. That physical [00:14:00] form is really important for us experiencing place, feeling connected, feeling that sense of belonging.

So therefore we start looking at, okay, the space actually really impacts our behavior and how we're experiencing things and how we experience that social connectedness with each other. Okay.

Rob Klinkert: So what are the practical examples and what is not working and what is really working? And maybe you have some experience with that.

Hannah Wilson: Yeah. So creating social spaces that actually encourage people to interact with each other because it's all well and good to give open spaces. But that doesn't actually mean that people are going to have conversations, that they're going to talk to each other. It's about enabling those places for activities to occur.

So having spaces people can meet and work together, co working, come together and speak to each other.

Rob Klinkert: Is it more about activity based working? Sort of stuff because you hear a lot about open spaces and the disadvantages about these open spaces, about [00:15:00] noise, for example. So when you talk about open spaces, can you more define what is an open space?

Hannah Wilson: Yeah, that's interesting. I do like some of the ideas around activity based working. Obviously we've moved on a little bit from that. It's about having spaces that are suitable for the activity that's needed. And it's about offering choice. You need to have lots of choice for individuals too. Do what they need to in work and that definitely leans over into kind of virtual working as well.

You might need independent spaces that people can connect virtually and reach out to wider members of their organizations. So I do think drawing on ideas of activity based working are good, but I think also moving beyond that and thinking about how people can. Move around that space and connect and feel connected to the organization as well.

The organizational culture, what is the organization saying for that individual about how they should work with others and encouraging that working with others as well?

Rob Klinkert: Well, when I look at the environment, you say [00:16:00] you're talking about choice. I see something different. I see. People are very like to be routinous, so to have their own place, their own desk, their own desk.

So when I go to the office and I see always the same people at the same desk, it's an open space, for example. So how do you see the change on routine and choice?

Hannah Wilson: This idea of territoriality is something that I'm really interested in and about how people want to have that space. They have their own territory.

And I think it's really important to encourage that and allow that because for some people that's really important to feel connected to the organization. So organizations need to encourage that individual choice. And actually I wanted to look, originally in my research, I wanted to look at territoriality and workplace loneliness because there's definitely a connection between those two factors.

I could also think if you

Chantal Spruit: have a larger sense of belonging to the company that you'd be less like claiming your own [00:17:00] space, right? Cause you're like, Oh, we're all here together. And it maybe feels more of a family,

Hannah Wilson: right? Yeah, definitely. So I think organizations. Like, they need to offer that opportunity, but there's things that they can do to create communities.

So people might not feel that they need to really stake their claim on it and they can allow other people into their space and that will reduce workplace loneliness. Unfortunately, when I actually wanted to collect this data, it was in COVID and everybody was working at home. So I couldn't actually explore that, but I think it's something definitely to look at in the future.

But organizations should encourage that individual choice. If people want to have that space. They can claim it, but I also think it's really important for organizations to communicate how to use space, how different individuals can go about putting their claim or even teams, how do teams define their working environment so that they can develop that social connectedness.

So things like having the opportunity to put things on a wall or have digital displays of where they are that can be [00:18:00] easily removed and changed for the next day. So the next. Load of people can come in and use that space if they want to. So that space doesn't just remain static and people have their saying desk because it's nice to have that.

So I think organizations need to offer ways of balancing that out, allowing that, but also making. People feel they don't have to do that. There's other opportunities that, as you said, that they feel that sense of belonging with the organization, they feel safe, they feel comfortable to go sit with people who they perhaps don't know and have those conversations.

So there's a lot of research as well about new spaces, especially with COVID 19 and people moving out of cities and having got work hubs where people from different organizations come together and work together, and I think that's really interesting as well, because you tend to If you think of sense of community and organizations pushing this, you might feel really close to your organization.

So you just talk to those people. However, the way [00:19:00] that you organize these hubs, you can create interaction between different organizations. And I think that's, again, about these places communicating how to. Interact, how to use the space and open up opportunities for shared communication through the form and structure.

But I think the meaning and the activities that occur in that space are supported by that form and structure and they communicate. That meaning and allow for different activities to occur. Some of these ideas are really important still that you need to have opportunities and it might be giving up 10 percent of your space that you would be putting desks in, which the X amount of people and giving it over to different space that actually allows for this interaction and this connection.

So a fantastic example that I've seen within an organization is that they gave up desk space to put it. A social staircase. So it was a staircase [00:20:00] that people used to get to the next floor, but it integrated desk, comfortable seating. So it made people thinking from a wellbeing perspective, it made people walk up the steps.

But also it made people stop, take a break, speak to people, have a talk. So you can see, and the organization was communicating, actually, we have. Not prioritized desk space, we've prioritized the space for you, our employees, to have this communal area, to have these conversations. So actually the organization is communicating that is a important thing for the employees to, to have and to experience within the workplace.

So it's not just, you must sit at your desk and do work. It's. Okay. Let's get the

Chantal Spruit: social aspects really important of how you do your work.

Rob Klinkert: So facility management is about also to create these kinds of places.

Hannah Wilson: I think so. And also to communicate how to use these spaces, [00:21:00] making sure that you think of every last detail.

I heard a presentation around table yesterday talking about how they created this really gorgeous space. But nobody used it. No one used it. I think that's the most common example. It's really uncomfortable benches. Yeah. People just weren't comfortable. Yeah. So they're not good. It's, you can have the best intentions of the world, but if you don't think about every last detail, then they're not going to use it.

So I think it is, it's a complex thing to think about, but you really need to break down all of those experiences that people have in the workplace. impact their behavior, going back to Kurt Leuven's idea, their behavior, if the environment isn't there, the physical, the social, and the individual, how they experience the world, it's going to influence their behavior and they're not going to use that space.

So they're not going to perform in the way that you.

Chantal Spruit: And I think like we're about to start rounding off the conversation, but maybe just for more practical approach, does your research come with a sort of step [00:22:00] plan or something I'm sure it's not that easy of follow these two steps and you're done. What are some like tips you can give it to people listening of make sure the first step is to do X or Y or.

Hannah Wilson: Yeah, so that's really interesting and I probably can't go into as much detail as you should do. If only it were that simple. If only it was that simple. However, I would really say start with your people. Think about the needs of your employees, the people that you're designing space for, that you're wanting to come into the office.

What do they need? And start from that point. Think about the activities that they do, the Tasks that they do think about their needs and their experiences of the workplace. And I think looking at that human approach and thinking about kind of sustainability, that's how we're going to create environments that people want to come back to and they want to use.

And they're going to be there and be practical over a long period of time. They're not going to be like. An empty space that you then have to go [00:23:00] back to and rethink and re engineer. If you start with what do we actually need, then hopefully that you're going to get it right. And especially working with those people, not just thinking about what do they need, actually speaking to them.

Incorporate them. Incorporate them into that process. And when you go back into that space, incorporate them into how to use that space. So it isn't just here, you've got this brand new work environment. Good luck, go for it. You need to communicate how to use that space as well. I think also especially

Chantal Spruit: incorporate them early on in the process is very important because often you see people thought about things really long or really well, but in practice it just does not work out.

Hannah Wilson: Yeah, exactly. And then post occupancy evaluations, you get feedback, but at that point, it's too late, you've done it.

Chantal Spruit: And especially talking about the workplace, because it's static.

Rob Klinkert: I'm just curious, how does sustainability connect to your research?

Hannah Wilson: From my perspective, creating sustainable environments are [00:24:00] environments that are going to be sustainable.

There, they're going to be used, they're efficient for the long term and I think creating spaces for people, that human centered perspective, it means that you're going to have the space is going to be used, it's going to be used effectively, we're not going to have to worry about juicing our portfolio.

So we're not having to. Make new plans and put, apply more money into what we're doing. So I think creating environments for people, you're going to have more sustainable projects and sustainable use of space. And also, if you think about going into a little bit of environmental psychology as well, the way that you communicate how people use space and the importance of space.

It can encourage people's behaviors as well. You can nudge people into how they use space. So if we think sustainability from more of an environmental perspective, you can help people be more sustainable in their practices. So encouraging people to, it's very basic, [00:25:00] but recycle. And you do things like that.

So the space can communicate how you want to, how you want people to behave. Yeah, again, how you want people to behave. And I

Chantal Spruit: think it's also what you're saying is it does maybe take some more time and attention to put in like the initial. Part of the process, like, to actually talk to people, what do you need?

And that's more time than people usually take, I think. But you're also saying it works out in the end because you actually have a space that's first of being used and also that can be used for a longer time rather than after two years. We all know the examples. After two years, you have to redo it all again.

Hannah Wilson: And that is just not sustainable in terms of Materials in terms of an organization. Also your own effort. Like an organization to keep on, if we think very critically, an organization wants to make money. They want to be sustainable in their business practices. And if they're having to keep on plowing money into redesigning their spaces, [00:26:00] changing organizational structures, things like that, then that's not going to be sustainable for the business to keep on practicing.

Whereas if you really think about how can we encourage positive working behaviours, and putting, thinking about that right from the beginning, you can encourage sustainable business practice as well. And going back to the idea of behaviour, if you want to increase business performance, You've got to think about your people cause they're the people who are working in this space and producing and working productively.

So if you want to increase productivity, you need to think about how can we support people, those individuals through the social space and the physical space to increase that business performance.

Chantal Spruit: All right. Thank you so much, Hannah Wilson, for being our guest today. And thank you, Rob Klinkert, for being my co host.

Host: Thank you so much for listening. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And as always, please don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe to the [00:27:00] podcast for more incredible content.