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Space Syntax Symposium
Extract from paper delivered at the 10th Space Syntax Symposium Conference Read more
Space Syntax Symposium
The ‘water cooler’ moment is a commonly understood analogy that quickly illustrates how valuable the serendipitous moments in the workplace are. These chance interactions that thrive on a less formulaic agenda can spark an idea or perhaps a new way of looking at an issue, or perhaps a greater understanding of the issues faced by a colleague.
Occupancy and usage patterns in offices have been through a process of rapid evolution, driven by advances in technology, changing lifestyles and different aspirations of employees. Enlightened organisations have sought to adopt their working environments as a place to support an organisations specific needs with diverse configuration to boost productivity and collaboration.
BDG undertook a study to drill down further into this subject, partly to confirm what we already knew but also to investigate the detail, which of course informs our design. The Space Syntax community has been able illustrate that layout configuration impacts on organisational culture, according to Wineman (2013), metric distance can impact on an organisation’s innovation and Steen (2009) found that people located in the most visible positions were more likely to interact.
We know that communication and collaboration in office environments are influenced by the shape and arrangement of furniture; workplace density; form of the floor plate; number of floors and elements of connection, this research has allowed us to identify the specific architectural elements that can impact and change behaviours, as well as the key special parameters that need to be tested during the design of an office fit out.
Our approach included the review of two case studies, a PR business and a charity of a comparable size with similar needs in terms of interaction and had both required major configurational changes in the redesign.
Case Study 1
The agency moved from a five floor building to a 2 floor building, reducing desks by 20% and adopted agile working methods. The new space was connected physically by an interior staircase located along the periphery of the building and visually via an atrium.
Case Study 2
This charity occupies 2 floors connected via an atria space with an internal staircase. The number of desks were increased by 17% due to the relocation of employees from another building.
The contrast is clear, with the former, floors have been reduced and an interior staircase accommodated making the environment physically and visually more connected, conversely the latter had introduced an additional floor and removed an existing staircase, creating a less physically connected workspace but this was counteracted by the inclusion of a meeting suite on the lower ground floor - a space previously only used as storage, and addressed interactional needs.
Case Study 1:
- Visibility was enhanced by 25%
- Visual field increased by 3%
- Observed movement increased by 13%
- Desk utilisation increased by 12%
- Organisation synergy increased by 8%
As a result the dynamic of peoples behaviour shifted, creating new patterns of flow and activities.
Case Study 2:
- Accessibility reduced by 38%
- Visibility reduced by 50%
- Office occupancy increased by 11% and 5% in the communal spaces
- Movement levels decreased by 2%
- Interaction levels increased by 14% attributed to the aforementioned meeting room suite)
- Interaction in shared facilities increased 4%
This paper confirmed 5 architectural parameters that were directly associated with the outcome:
1) Furniture shape and arrangement impacted the spatial efficiency of an office environment;
2) Strategic workplace density resulted in beneficial saving costs;
3) The form of the floor plate had an effect on user’s visibility;
4) The number of floors affected accessibility and communication across organisation;
5) In relation to the previous parameter, the elements of connection (staircases) increased movement levels overall and interaction.
There is no doubt that spatial parameters should be tested when designing office layout, designing a workplace environment requires a bespoke and robust methodology to support organisational needs efficiently and effectively.
Designer, Lucy Harrison, discusses her own experiences of agile working at BDG Read more
Designer, Lucy Harrison, discusses her own experiences of agile working at BDG - the pros, cons and top tips:
Constant change in working settings allows you to sit with a variety of people with different skills and knowledge.
Ability to choose your work setting dependent on your tasks for the day.
Not surrounded by piles of paper that are no longer current – a de cluttered work style – allowing for a generally cleaner workspace.
Initial unease of VOIP technology, replacing phones, but have found this really works - you can be anywhere and still use teleconferencing, sharing of documents and your screen.
If the whole team doesn’t adopt flexible working then it becomes unsuccessful. Many people have to be pushed initially to action it, this should come from the top of the team down to encourage this behaviour to be adopted.
When 100% of people are in + clients there can be limited space – this can be resolved with people working elsewhere outside of the ‘office’ space but needs to be supported by IT.
People sometimes lose a sense of personalisation and ownership of workspace –e.g photos on the desk. This often needs to be supported by storage which can resolve this issue.
Storage can be an issue dependent on job role.
Be organised – plan you tasks for the day to allow you to work in the right location and have the things you need for the day.
Keep things clean and tidy – your workspace and the space around you allowing people to have the choice to work in all spaces.
Move as much a possible – it keeps you interested, you collaborate and learn things you might not otherwise – best to move every day in the initial few weeks so you get a feel for all the available locations.
Clear your desk and the space around you if you are going to be out of the office for more than an hour allowing other people to share the space with you more effectively.