Spatial and social configurations in offices
2010 (English)In: Journal of Space syntax, ISSN 2044-7507, Vol. 1, no 1, 121-132 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The strength of space syntax is the potential to describe the interplay between spatial configurationand social behaviour; however, there are some important differences between the space syntax foundon the urban level and on the building level. In studies of offices, we have found that integrationvalues do not explain the pattern of movements and the positions of interaction. The average interactionfrequency is just the same for workstations in different positions and in different office conceptsdespite the fact that many “spontaneous” interactions occur when people pass workstations. Althoughthere are some spatial explanations for this homogeneity (the studied offices are shallow systems bothwhen it comes to cellular and to open plan offices), interaction follows organisational borders in anopen plan office as these borders act as if they were walls: almost no interaction crosses the departmentborders in spite of some units being spatially well-integrated. Obviously, the spatial influence inthese offices is weak when it comes to encouraging spontaneous interaction across organisationalborders. In fact, much of the so-called spontaneous interaction is programmed, even if it is not scheduled.Clearly, visibility is important for social behaviour; we found that office workers have mostfrequent interaction with nearby and visible co-workers. To some extent, this is an effect of placingpeople according to the organisation scheme, but still - as we know that work processes in offices arelargely formed by context, so this “use” of the neighbours is also an effect of seeing each other everyday. We also noted that openness is more problematic when it comes to sound. Many people aredisturbed by talking in open plan offices and one conclusion is that work dominated by “long questions”suffers from this conversational overhearing, while work dominated by “short questions” hasthe possibility to balance the negative effects. There is a need both for new office design and formanagement strategies that combine spatial and social configurations in a more conscious way. Thefindings presented in this paper are from studies of seven offices/companies with a total of about1500 office workers.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: UCL , 2010. Vol. 1, no 1, 121-132 p.
workspace design, office work, interaction, knowledge sharing, spatial configuration
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-53161OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-53161DiVA: diva2:469142
QC 201201102011-12-222011-12-222012-01-10Bibliographically approved