"A spatial model of work relationships: The relationship-building and relationship-straining effects of workspace design," co-authored by Nathan Tong, Visiting Instructor of Management in the Barney School of Business, is forthcoming in the Academy of Management Review. AMR is the #1 ranked journal in business, and #2 ranked in management (2016 Journal Citation Reports).
Abstract: The physical layout of office space design has evolved to reflect the complexity of modern work and the transitory nature of contemporary employment. Although scholars have investigated the influence of physical workspace design on individual and organizational performance, there is a dearth of research evaluating its impact on work relationships. We contextualize workplace relationships in their physical environment and propose that spatial dimensions common to modern workspaces actively influence workplace relationships, focusing specifically on the spatial dimensions of proximity, workspace assignment, privacy, and crowding. Our spatial model of work relationships proposes that these elements work through relationship-building mechanisms such as communication content, face-to-face frequency, communication duration, and identity marking, as well as through relationship-straining mechanisms such as territoriality and ego-depletion, to differentially influence both positive and negative relational ties at work. We highlight the tradeoffs associated with modern office space dimensions and the relational costs and benefits associated with these dimensions, and provide the first step in assessing the impact of the variations in spatial design found in the modern office space.