Spatial support of knowledge production in higher education: Research paper

H van Sprang, BH Groen, DJM van der Voordt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This paper explores the impact of the physical and social dimensions of the work environment on satisfaction and perceived productivity of knowledge workers in Dutch universities of applied sciences. The approach took the form of a literature review, multiple case study of six research centres using interviews and logbook analysis, and web-based survey (N = 188). Optimally facilitating knowledge production requires both space for concentration (to support internalisation of knowledge) and space for interaction (to support externalisation of knowledge). None of the work environments involved in the study adequately supported all the phases of knowledge development adequately. Cellular offices with personal desks are preferred for solo work and,
whereas new workplace designs with a focus on the office as a meeting place support interaction and collaboration. Spatial layout and interaction have a stronger impact than comfort and absence of distraction. The spatial layout should support both in-depth concentration and communication, fit the internalisation/externalisation ratio of activities, and accommodate the proximity essential for collaborative knowledge development. Being able to choose is the key to success. In terms of research limitations, knowledge workers’ productivity was measured by self-assessment, but only a limited number of diaries were collected. The lessons learned can be used as inputs to decisionmaking processes regarding the design, implementation and management of working environments in higher education settings. Few studies have been conducted concerning the spatial preferences and needs of knowledge workers in universities of applied sciences. The results show that the physical dimension (comfort and layout) is more important for collective productivity, whereas individual productivity is more strongly influenced by the social dimension (interaction and distraction).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-88
Number of pages14
JournalCorporate Real Estate Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • knowledge work
  • work environment
  • higher education
  • satisfaction
  • perceived productivity

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