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Unlocking the Transformative Potential of Outdoor Office Work: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare. Malmö universitet, Malmö university.
Göteborgs universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2462-1162
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9714-577X
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords [en]
sustainable work life, outdoor office work, nature contact, constructivist grounded theory, free space, resonance, health and well-being, inner development, sustainable development.
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-66321OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-66321DiVA, id: diva2:1847429
Projects
Concepts for the Sustainable Office of the Future
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2024-03-27 Created: 2024-03-27 Last updated: 2024-04-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Turning Work Inside Out: Exploring Outdoor Office Work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Turning Work Inside Out: Exploring Outdoor Office Work
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Why don't we usually work outdoors? While some professions require it, most white-collar workers remain indoors, sedentary, and screen-bound. Yet, the potential benefits of outdoor work on health, well-being, learning, and creativity are significant and underexplored, especially given the demands of today's knowledge-intensive work life. The aim of this thesis is to explore the potential of integrating the outdoors into everyday work life by bringing office work outdoors. To accomplish this, the thesis identifies ways by which the potential of outdoor office work may be enabled, in this case through an interactive research approach. This exploration was conducted through the ‘StickUt Malmö’ interactive research project, the Danish ‘Pop Out!’ project, and an interview study within the project ‘Concepts for the Sustainable Office of the Future’, culminating in four papers and a final discussion. 

In ‘Outdoor Office Work – An Interactive Research Project Showing the Way Out’ (Paper I) it was shown that a range of work activities could be brought outdoors, both individually and collaboratively, and that outdoor office work (OOW) was associated with experiences of well-being, recovery, autonomy, enhanced cognition, better communication, and social relations, but also with feelings of guilt and illegitimacy. Conditions of importance were found in the physical environment, and in the organizational culture, and not the least concerned managers’ attitudes towards OOW, and to autonomy and trust in general. 

In ‘Greenspace as Workplace – Benefits, Challenges and Essentialities in the Physical Environment’ (Paper II) insights into key aspects of the physical environment relevant for the experienced benefits and challenges of workers exploring OOW were captured through the themes of Simplicity, Safeness, Comfort and Contact with Nature, whereas Sociality, Well-being, and Functioning stood out as the main experienced benefits, and Digital dependency and Illegitimacy as challenges to overcome. 

Based on an interview study with white-collar workers practicing OOW on a regular basis, a conceptual framework was developed and presented in ‘Unlocking the Transformative Potential of Outdoor Office Work – A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study’ (Paper III). The categories practicing outdoor office work, challenging the taken-for-granted, enjoying freedom and disconnection, feeling connected and interdependent, promoting health and well-being, enhancing performance, and finally, adding a dimension, make up ‘The Lotus of Outdoor Office Work’; a model visualizing the experienced benefits and challenges of OOW, highlighting the dynamic relationship between the practice of working outdoors on one hand, and how this challenges the system in which white-collar work traditionally takes place, on the other.

Through a combined theoretical and case discussion in ‘Critical Interaction – Challenging Dualisms by Bringing Office Work Outdoors’ (Paper IV), the possibilities and circumstances under which an interactive research approach may be critical and contribute to learning and knowledge development in the context of exploring OOW was elaborated upon. It was concluded that an interactive research approach can do so by challenging taken-for-granted dualisms, being critical with support from closeness as well as distance, engaging in both action and reflection, and by encompassing both practical and academic interests and outcomes. 

In conclusion, exploring OOW is a relevant and sustainable way to enhance work life. However, challenges exist, such as the need for a supportive outdoor environment and an organizational culture that values trust and autonomy. The primary challenge lies in societal norms that separate mind and body, perpetuating the belief that white-collar work is incompatible with physical activity. The exploration of OOW turns ideas about work inside out, revealing that only certain activities are traditionally recognized as ‘work’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalens universitet, 2024
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 405
Keywords
Outdoor office work, Interactive Research, Human-nature relation, Sustainable work life, Work norms, Urban greenspace
National Category
Social Sciences Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-66327 (URN)978-91-7485-640-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-05-17, Gamma och digitalt via Zoom, Mälardalens universitet, Västerås, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-04-03 Created: 2024-04-02 Last updated: 2024-04-26Bibliographically approved

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Petersson Troije, CharlotteRedmalm, DavidWiklund, Lena

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