Cultural Differences in the Effects of Workspace Personalisation on Individual and Organisational Outcomes

  • Yuefei Cao

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMPhil


Workspace personalisation is the deliberate decoration/modification of an office environment by its occupants. Prior research has examined what prompts personalisation, how employees personalise, and demonstrated its positive effects. However, whilst there are significant cultural differences between countries that may affect the foundational psychological processes involved in personalisation, no research has considered how the psychology of personalisation may differ for employees in different cultures. This research examines the role of culture in antecedents, processes and outcomes of personalisation.
This thesis includes two empirical chapters. Study 1 (Chapter 2) was a survey of 620 office workers, including 312 participants from 16 organisations in China and 308 participants from 11 organisations in the UK, was conducted. Study 2 (Chapter 3) was an interview and observation study of 15 employees from a college in China and 16 employees from a university in England.
In Study 1, national and organisational culture (specifically, power distance, collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance) affected personalisation. Furthermore, there were positive indirect relationships between personalisation and individual outcomes (job performance, job satisfaction and wellbeing) through personal control, work autonomy, and organisational identification. Therefore, Study 1 provides evidence for the impact of culture on personalisation and the processes by which personalisation has effects. A follow-up qualitative study (Study 2) then explored these patterns in more depth. The results indicated that cultural differences in attitudes towards policies that would restrict personalisation. Furthermore, Chinese participants (but not UK participants) engaged in group-level personalisation and leader designed personalisation. Participants in both samples indicated that job characteristics affected the extent to which they personalised, and that they perceived positive effects of personalisation.
Taken together, the two studies in this thesis suggest that cultural factors have a significant impact on the extent to which employees personalise their workspace and on the processes by which personalisation affects individual outcomes. This is significant, because it implies that organisations should take cultural diversity into account when developing and implementing their workspace management policies, or risk their policies backfiring (in terms of reducing employees’ job satisfaction, for example). This thesis shows the importance of taking a culture-specific approach to workspace management and personalisation policies.
Date of Award19 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrew Weyman (Supervisor), Leda Blackwood (Supervisor) & Laura G. E. Smith (Supervisor)


  • cultural difference
  • workspace personalisation
  • office environment
  • organisational culture
  • office personalisation
  • national culture
  • job satisfaction
  • wellbeing
  • work performance

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