User Experience with flexible offices

Antonio Cobaleda Cordero, Design & Human Factors IMS, defends his doctoral thesis. It contributes with knowledge of the experiences that users have with the artefacts and spaces in flexible offices, explores design opportunities for positive user experiences, and proposes the tentative model SEEX (Stimuli-Evaluation-EXperiential outcome) of how user experiences take place. The thesis provides theoretical and practical insights to support both researchers and practitioners in the planning, development, operation, and design intervention of office environments from a UX angle. 

Antonio is an Industrial Design Engineer from Spain, and he has a strong interest in user-centred product design and development. His research focuses on the experiences of users with the physical artefacts and spaces in flexible offices, and how these could be (re)designed to enable positive user experiences and, consequently, contribute to users’ well-being at work.

Different office types provide the preconditions for distinct user experiences. However, research evidence on how users appraise flexible offices such as activity-based or combi offices is not as profuse as in the case of the more traditional open-plan and cell offices. Further, the available literature shows discrepant results between flexible offices. The main difference between traditional and flexible offices is that the design of the latter is intended for users to switch between different shared spaces and workstations oriented to support different activities, needs, and preferences. This office design may pose new opportunities and challenges for the users as their experiences at work may be influenced by design qualities (or constellations of them) that are not present in traditional offices. I study the experiences of users with flexible offices because I want to understand the influences that the design qualities of the office artefacts and spaces have on such experiences, as well as their design implications. Also, I utilise the acquired knowledge to explore design opportunities for positive user experiences with flexible offices. In this regard, the research angle adopted draws on a UX theoretical background and a practical approach with multiple user studies in real office environments. 
The findings show that the user experiences with flexible offices are influenced by interrelated design qualities of the spaces and artefacts in use, rather than isolated qualities. These (tangible and intangible) qualities define the nature of an artefact, a space, or constellations of them that users experience, e.g., the qualities of an office chair vs. a meeting room. Experiences are subjective, but relate to both individual and collective experiences, e.g., using an ergonomic workstation vs. sharing those workstations. The findings also suggest that designing for user experiences with flexible offices is a highly complex endeavour, and that emphasis should be placed on designing for the experiences of pleasure, community, autonomy, purpose, and control over the environment. Utilising this knowledge to develop and test research prototypes allowed for a richer understanding of the experiential process and its relation to more systemic aspects such as the context of use or the temporality of experiences. Derived from these research activities conducted and their findings, I present in this thesis the tentative model SEEX (Stimuli-Evaluation-EXperiential outcome) of how user experiences take place. This thesis contributes knowledge on both theoretical and practical levels for academics and practitioners to study office user experiences from a UX perspective, support informed decisions in the planning, operation, and evaluation of offices, and explore design opportunities for office environments. 

Page manager Published: Thu 05 May 2022.