Monday, 23 April 2012

Open planning

Posted by Dorothy Newbury-Birch

I remember quite vividly the first conversation I really had when discussing moving from my lovely single office in our old building to the big open plan office space in our new one. It was with the then Head of the Institute who said that although it hadn’t been decided where everyone was going to be based in the new building there had been discussions that myself and our team would be in the 10 desk room at the other end of the building. I’m not sure if he was joking but I understood why he would say it! You see, it isn’t a surprise to me, I know I’m loud; I only have two levels, loud and very loud! – I try to be quieter and sometimes achieve it but I do find it very, very hard.

So here we were in our room at the other end of the building away from the quiet side. We settled in well, there’s no denying it’s loud but it’s productive and fun and also, when needed, quiet. Then......... I got a new job – I’m now a lecturer and my role has changed. It was time for me to go into the big office space with around 40 people. I’m not sure who was more nervous, the other 39 people or me. I felt like the new kid at school. I decided I’d let them in gently. I hot desked for a couple of weeks – and I saw it - the fear in their eyes. Dot is here! After feeling I’d let people in gently I arrived full time, with my flowers and my photo’s and my nic-nacs. What did I find?

Bjork: It's oh so quiet
I found, in the main, silence and for me this is stifling. I find myself at times wondering if I’m tapping my keyboards too loudly. I feel tension a lot of the time. I make phone calls at my desk and talk to my team when they come through to see me but others don’t and for me it’s strange. Don’t get me wrong, we all need quiet sometimes (and that’s what I think the quiet rooms and headphones are great for) but I do think that if we lightened up a bit and chatted a bit without worrying too much then I think we would achieve more and work could be a bit more, dare I say it, fun! Yes we’re busy, and I’m not suggesting we do the salsa around the desks (well actually..........) but since moving into the new building I have collaborated with more people than ever before and that’s fantastic for me, them and research more generally.
So, when passing my desk, say hello; ask how my day is; admire my flowers. I’ll tell you if I’m too busy to talk now and perhaps arrange to have a coffee later but please, talk to me and each other.

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