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Faculty Spotlight: Brenda Ghitulescu, Associate Professor & Department Chair, Managment

Faculty Spotlight: Brenda Ghitulescu, Associate Professor & Department Chair, Managment

This Faculty Spotlight is on Dr. Brenda Ghitulescu, Associate Professor & Department Chair of Management. Her research interests focus on how employees proactively shape their interactions and relationships with others in the workplace to do their jobs better and add meaning to work, the pursuit of meaning and calling among creative workers, and contextual influences on workplace relationships.

Her current research is focused on, “The impact that modern office space designs have on interpersonal relationships, employee well-being, collaboration, and innovation“. She recently presented insights from her research, titled “Workspaces that Move People: Spatially Situated Processes and the Emergence of Community in Organizations“, at TCNJ’s Faculty Sh4re event. We sat down to talk with her about her research and here is what she shared.

What drew you to choose this topic?

“In my research, I have been interested in exploring how organizations can facilitate collaboration and creative problem-solving, while also driving employee engagement and strengthening connections. One way in which we can think about this question is to look at how workspace, especially modern office space, impacts employee well-being, engagement, and collaboration. Recently many organizations have adopted open-floor space designs with the intent to facilitate collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation. However, research evidence on how these designs impact employee outcomes is mixed. One lens to look at these questions is organizational community, the “social glue” that binds people together and allows them to experience a sense of belonging to each other, their work, and the organization. Community is a key ingredient in driving employee engagement, well-being, and collaboration. I had the unique opportunity, together with my co-authors, to study a large architecture and engineering firm that redesigned its workspace to include an open layout, flexible spatial arrangements, huddle spaces, and free common spaces such as a work café and game room, with the specific design intent of enhancing.”

Were there any challenges in conducting this research?

“This was a five-year, multi-disciplinary research project that used multiple methods of data collection- three rounds of in-depth interviews with a large sample of employees, observations, two waves of surveys, and analysis of the architectural properties of space. The data collection process required a significant time commitment and lasted for two years. Given that not much is known in our field about how workspace design impacts employee behaviors, work routines, social rituals, and emotions at work, we adopted a method that allowed us to iterate between interviews, coding, and existing theory to be able to build new theory and explain how workspace impacts employee interactions and builds community in the organization.”

What have you found the most interesting to come out of your research?

“The most interesting insights from this research were related to the contrasting effects of two free common spaces in the organization: the work café and the game room. Our initial interviews revealed that these two spaces had the same design intent- to build relationships across divisions and functional groups and enhance collaboration. However, it was intriguing to find that only one of these spaces achieved its design intent – the work café. The work café allowed people to engage in impromptu conversations and build closer friendships and stronger work relationships with others from different functional areas and hierarchical levels in the organization, thus contributing to the emergence of community. None of these happened in the game room. In our research, we explain the theoretical mechanisms that allow workspace to facilitate or hinder community and collaboration.”

See what the TCNJ School of Business faculty are working on. Look for the next Faculty Spotlight soon!



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