Workplace design for social well-being: a conceptual model and research strategy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Purpose: The covid-19 pandemic has increased awareness of office workers’ need for real-life social interaction, connectedness and belongingness at work. The purpose of this paper is to present a way to study this important, but still under-examined, social dimension of employee well-being in relation to workplace design. A conceptual model outlines how the physical work environment might support or inhibit perception and behaviour related to social well-being of individual office workers. A research strategy is presented to develop a framework for guiding the design of workplaces. Theory: Several well-being theories consider relatedness a basic human need. Fulfilling this need requires satisfying social interactions, leading to positive relationships and feelings of belonging. Spatial characteristics could encourage or discourage social interaction by influencing natural movement, visibility and privacy. In the workplace social interaction can be a support as well as a burden, depending on, for instance, privacy preferences and work activities. Therefore, the conceptual model presented here includes spatial characteristics encouraging or discouraging social interaction as well as the employee’s perception, behaviour, personal and situational factors. Methodology: First, workplace design and social well-being are defined and their relationship is depicted in a conceptual model. Subsequently, a mixed-methods approach is proposed to develop this model into a framework of relationships between specific workplace design elements and components of users’ social well-being. The proposed research strategy starts with an exploratory phase of additional literature study, analysis of case-study data, and pilot studies to identify parameters and try out methods. The subsequent phase of main data collection and analysis includes (a) a large-scale quantitative study using statistic modeling to identify significant relationships between outcome and predictor variables, and (b) a series of field experiments applying empirical research through design for studying ways to manipulate key predictors of social well-being using design interventions. The third phase synthesises the findings and translates them into a framework to guide workplace designers and other stakeholders. Findings: The model states that workplace design influences social well-being through actual and perceived affordances and behaviour, influenced by organizational and personal factors. Therefore it is acknowledged that measures for both the actual and the perceived work environment need to be developed. Similarly, measurement of both actual and perceived social interaction adds value to the insight in the relationship between workplace design and social wellbeing. Collecting data in real-life settings in contemporary offices will enhance the internal and external validity of the framework. Originality/value: The concept of social well-being at work has not yet been well defined and studied in a comprehensive and systematic way, nor has it entirely been connected to actual and perceived characteristics of the physical work environment. This paper makes a start with unravelling the complex relationship between workplace design, social interaction and social well-being, and offers a framework and practical suggestions for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Transdisciplinary Workplace Research (TWR) Conference 2020
Subtitle of host publicationFuture Workspaces
EditorsA. Kämpf-Dern, M. Will-Zocholl
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-00-066044-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventTWR 2020 : Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference -
Duration: 17 Sep 202018 Sep 2020


ConferenceTWR 2020 : Transdisciplinary Workplace Research Conference


  • Workplace design
  • employee well-being
  • social interaction
  • mixed methods

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