Open space as a good working environment: 9 possible principles

I wrote earlier about the mixed feelings that I had about moving from old office oriented space to a new open plan building. At the time it looked like we might end up moving across into rows of desks with not enough space to get us all in. Well things have moved on a bit and it looks like IET will have a less complete move into the new building, which will lower pressure on the space and we also have a little bit longer to plan. Another change is that in the new management structure I am working with Grainne Conole and Martin Weller to oversee part of IET the “Technology Enhanced Learning” (TEL) group. Chatting to Grainne earlier this week we found that while we are not sure exactly what we want we felt like there were some principles that ought to allow good working space. Here is my attempt to list some of those principles:

  1. Space that a visitor would envy – the it looks great to work here (even if it isn’t!)
  2. That the building works with different levels of capacity – everyone there to almost no-one there
  3. A choice of place and styles of work e.g:
    • Easy chairs plus display plus whiteboard (we have some really nice Smartboard 600is)
    • Tables and chairs to chat or work with a laptop
    • Desks with good screens and keyboards (not necessarily cpus though)
  4. Expect everyone to have a laptop/notebook (could be Asus eee PC or Apple Touch)
  5. Flexible space where people can change location and cope with areas of overload (everybody in)
  6. Not planned around a desk space for everyone
  7. An area of ownership for each person – where your files are and paper can be found from day to day 
  8. Joint responsibility for tidyness and impression on visitors – care for the environment
  9. Space for hard work and continuity when it is needed – but not all the time for everyone

Well that is my first pass – there is perhaps a bit of conflict in there and I know from talking to colleagues that ownership matters but I think we need to trade some of that for flexibility and space. We need to go from fantasy to furniture order in less than a month but I am a lot more hopeful than I was in October!

5 Responses to Open space as a good working environment: 9 possible principles

  1. Linda Price says:

    I like the idea of stepping outside the box and thinking creatively about the space. I think too many people in IET have taken a negative stance to the move – and are therefore not engaging in the positive opportunities. I think you ideas sound exciting and I like the principles that you propose. Having something like this circulating around IET might enthuse people.

  2. Patrick says:

    Thanks Linda,
    Change can always be a bit awkward – I just looked on for a suitable quotation. On that seems appropriate “People are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.’
    (Charles Kettering).
    Whereas maybe we need to be a bit more
    “The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” (Okakura Kakuzo).

    PS Thank you for the gluten free biscuits!

  3. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Space principles - starters for ten…

  4. Chris Jones says:

    I am belatedly joining in on this debate about space. I am very comfortable with the sort of flexible notions that Patrick has oultined but then I’m one of those who has their home in a laptop and who works across a variety of spaces, so I guess it is easy for me!

    I want to pick up on Patrick’s first principle:
    Space that a visitor would envy – the it looks great to work here (even if it isn’t!)
    My first reaction was a bit negative – a reaction that felt ‘no it does need to be great to work here!’ On reflection I think that Patrick has hit on an important point. I do want the space to be one that I would be happy to bring visitors in to. I also think this relates to the idea of a space that works when all or most of us are in but also when very few are around. This will be a hard trick to accomplish but I suppose it is one of my main concerns that we approximate this balance as closely as we can.

  5. Patrick says:

    Thanks Chris,
    Definitely not my intention that we have a space that isn’t great to work in – after all I expect to work there. I think though you bring out the points that I wanted to make around this. If we can get people we bring along saying “it must be great to work here” then I think it will become true, even if we have made some compromises and taken some risks that only we know about. I do also agree with your last line – it will be a hard trick to accomplish!

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