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Offices - the need to design both the spatial and social configuration in new ways
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE).
2010 (English)In: Proceedings on FM in the Experience Economy held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 2010, 2010, 203-211 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Over the last decades there have been significant changes in general in offices. One change hasbeen a move towards flatter organisations with more comprehensive tasks for office workers;another has come in the form of technological developments which increase independence interms of time and space. Changes of this kind have rendered the issues of knowledgedevelopment and creativity more strategically relevant for office design. The overall aim of ourresearch is to understand the interplay between social and spatial systems in offices. Ourmethod involves comparing cases that have similar spatial concepts but different types ofactivities, and vice versa. We use observation techniques supplemented by questionnaires andinterviews. Over a ten year period, we have studied several office organisations comprisingmore than 2,000 individuals. We have found that, on average, the amount of interaction issimilar in spite of differences in work tasks, work organisation and spatial configuration. Wehave further found that it is important to take different types of accessibility, into account.Passing other people’s workstations when moving to common areas obviously increases thechances of interaction. Individuals who are more visible than others tend to interact more withco-workers. We also interpret our findings in the area of visual exposure: the individuals yousee most often will be the ones you trust and will therefore also be the people you consult forjudgement-related questions. We argue that this kind of interaction is the very reason forworking in an office. The second kind of interaction deals with fact-related issues, which areeasier to handle at a distance and are not so easily disturbed by office noise. Another importantfinding is that organisational borders act strongly as walls. This indicates that so-calledspontaneous interaction is of a more programmed nature than is usually conceived to be thecase. This is probably very efficient. If, however, we look for interaction across borders to bethe trigger for new questions and creativity, this disciplined behaviour may be problematic inthe long run. In conclusion, it is necessary to combine design efforts for spatial configurationwith new design solutions for social configuration. It is imperative to maintain establishedrelationships and roles, while supplementing them with new arenas for interaction across theborders of an organisation. The FM sector faces the challenge of supporting experiments in thisdirection and developing sustainable knowledge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. 203-211 p.
Keyword [en]
workspace design, office work, interaction, spatial configuration, social configuration
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-53152OAI: diva2:469084
QC 20120116Available from: 2012-01-16 Created: 2011-12-22 Last updated: 2012-01-16Bibliographically approved

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Steen, Jesper
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