The Impact of Facility Layout on Service Worker Behavior: An Empirical Study of Nurses in the Emergency Department

37 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018 Last revised: 21 Oct 2018

See all articles by Lesley Meng

Lesley Meng

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania - Operations, Information, & Decisions Department

Robert Batt

University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Business

Christian Terwiesch

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Date Written: October 19, 2018

Abstract

Problem Definition: We study the impact of service facility layout on how service workers organize their tasks. We focus on the hospital emergency department (ED) as a service setting where nurses (servers) have discretion over how they interact with their patients (customers) in a facility that introduces significant heterogeneity in necessary walking distance.

Relevance: Prior studies on facility layout in operations have largely focused on the direct effect of transit times on reduced productivity. We extend this work to show how skilled service workers such as nurses make adaptations to their work behavior to enhance their productivity in light of facility layout constraints.

Methodology: We utilize a unique dataset consisting of infrared nurse location tracking data, patient electronic medical record data, bedside call data, and the architectural floor plan, to study this empirically.

Results: Nurses working in a busy ED reduce their walking distance by batching their tasks to distant patient rooms. While the patients in these rooms receive the same amount of care time, this batching behavior results in longer wait times between nurse visits, and more nurse call button activations. Nurse call button use is linked with poor patient satisfaction with care, and interrupts nurse work flow.

Managerial Implications: These findings show that even in services, facility layout can lead to servers with discretion over task timing using that discretion in ways that help the server but that lead to reduced perceived customer quality. The negative effects of distance-based task batching can likely be addressed through careful facility design, and in the cases where this is not an option, improved operational transparency.

Keywords: Healthcare Operations Management, Empirical Service Operations Management, Behavioral Operations, Facility Layout

Suggested Citation

Meng, Lesley and Batt, Robert and Terwiesch, Christian, The Impact of Facility Layout on Service Worker Behavior: An Empirical Study of Nurses in the Emergency Department (October 19, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3143883 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3143883

Lesley Meng (Contact Author)

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania - Operations, Information, & Decisions Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Robert Batt

University of Wisconsin - Madison - School of Business ( email )

975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States

Christian Terwiesch

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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