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Charlotte Petersson Troije Wants Offices without Walls

2021–04–12

 

When Spring is in the air, we long to put work aside and head outdoors. Office geeks looking for an excuse to sit in the sunshine will be happy to meet Swedish work science expert Charlotte Petersson Troije, who says that taking walks with colleagues and working in the open air can improve workplace performance. Charlotte was part of the team behind Nola’s new Work Lounge swivel armchair, launched earlier this year. Today, she joins us to share her career experiences, discuss her burning interest in harnessing human potential, and describe ways we can gain insights together at work.

What’s your background?

   – It’s pretty diverse, actually. Before I started teaching and researching, I exported cosmetics, worked as a department manager at a hotel in Dubai and did admin for an insurance broker - just to name a few previous roles. That’s probably why I’ve become so interested in how each one of us can develop our human potential as we come together to make up the work force. I want to know what makes us feel good, function better and collaborate well. I’d like to find out what’s needed to help us evolve and be able to contribute to the development of the workplace, as well as to society as a whole.

 

How do you combine that with your research?

   – I taught leadership and organizational development at Malmö University for many years. One day, in June 2010, I got a real “Aha!” moment. It was during a walk outdoors with colleagues that I noticed how our conversations and ideas were flowing much better than usual. I thought, “Why not do this every day?” The idea was soon named “Stick Out!” and was developed to explore the potentials of working in outdoor spaces to create sustainable and innovative workplaces. More specifically, I wanted to find out what was possible to do outdoors, what could be achieved, and what would be needed to make it all work. So, after several years of hard work, and many fantastic meetings later, the interactive research project “Stick Out Malmö” finally got started. The project was run in collaboration with the City of Malmö and received support from the EU’s European Social Fund until August 2019. And now, things are really starting to happen!

Charlotte Petersson Troije is project manager for Stick Ut and licentiate in Urban studies at Malmö Univesity. Photo: Peter Bjerg

“I’m convinced that we must become better at utilising our various skills, experiences and ideas.”

Charlotte Petersson Troije

What’s the goal?

   – Right now, I’m focusing on my PhD dissertation research in Work Life Science at Sweden’s Mälardalen University and have just published my first article. It’s called “Outdoor Office Work” and it was created collaboratively with six other researchers from different disciplines. For me, the most important goal is to make a difference in practice, so that several of us - preferably all of us – will be able to work in ways that make us feel good and function well. Research has revealed that the obstacles to working outdoors lie mainly in the way we think about work itself. Many people feel as though they are avoiding work when they do it outdoors, even though they are doing the same things they would have done in the office, and potentially even better. The outdoors seems to be linked to taking breaks and enjoying leisure more than getting work done. I think it would be hugely beneficial to several professions and industries if we started to think about the outdoor environment as being part of the workplace. I hope that in future we can enjoy ourselves and be productive at the same time. All while spending more time working outdoors.

 

How did your research contribute to Nola's design process?

   – I was part of a design team formed by Superlab and Nola, where my role was primarily to share my research. On one hand, we needed support to promote the idea of ​​working outside, while on the other hand, we needed to show that it would be practical, as well as possible. We needed to adapt furniture and other products in order to make it easy and attractive to do office work outdoors. It's important to start with an open mind and not just apply an indoor concept to an outdoor environment. We had to question traditional ideas about the workplace so that we could take advantage of the opportunities that exist outside.

What are the benefits of combining research and design?

   – My experience of working with several types of organisations has highlighted different strengths and weaknesses in different sectors. I can see that there is much to be gained from interdisciplinary collaborations that cross boundaries. Although I say that my research is about exploring the potential for working outdoors, another aspect lies in exploring how we can gain insights together. I’m convinced that we must become better at utilising our various skills, experiences and ideas. My research would not have been possible without establishing close collaborations with the participants in the project and their willingness to challenge themselves. We developed theoretical approaches and research practices as we worked collaboratively with each other. I hope that our example of pioneering sustainable and innovative ways of working together will inspire other companies like Nola to explore the possibilities and potentials of working outdoors.  ●

Work Lounge is created in a multidisciplinary team in order to create the perfect conditions for working outdoors.

Read more about our new product Work Lounge