Planning for staff space as part of the Main Library Redevelopment raises many challenges and questions. Practical issues such as spatial needs, IT infrastructure and furniture are all crucial to an effective working environment, but more strategic issues such as occupancy costs and environmental impact also need careful consideration.
One of the most fundamental questions during the planning stage concerns the office concept: what kind of office design best suits the working processes and culture of the Library? Should all employees have their own workstation or are they going to share desks? Would enclosed offices or a more open working environment be better?
Ryder Architecture, the team behind the Main Library Redevelopment, recently led a discussion on space concepts and ways of working for representatives from across the Library. We asked Strategic Project Manager Dominic Hunt and Bibliographic Services Manager Kathryn Sullivan to report back from the workshop…
In a previous job I managed a new building project where we moved people from old buildings into a new office so I was lucky that I was prepared for the type of things the architects would say. But that was with a different company so it was interesting to see how our architects, Ryder, did things. What struck me most was how willing they were to listen to our requirements so as to fully understand what we needed to work. I’d always assumed that buildings are identikit designs but it really isn’t the case.
They talked quite a lot about finding out what we need so the design could be based on what’s essential to do the jobs we do (although obviously they won’t just replicate what we have now, otherwise what would be the point?).
They explained how the space would be based on our needs but within some basic parameters that will involve a lot of change. Things we’re not used to like shared desk space within broad team areas, clear desk policies and personal storage in lockers are different to how we work now but are needed not just for the move but for our strategy and cultural change programmes. I think what struck a chord the most with me was a phrase one of the architects used – he said that they’re designing the space for how we want to be and we need to change now so that we are ready when we move, not that we’ll change when we move into the new spaces.
They talked about how fast the time-scale is and how there was lots to do and they said whilst one rule doesn’t fit all, things will change for all of us and there will be lots of opportunities to improve how we work now. So all in all I was impressed with Ryder and how they are listening and engaging with us and it was really useful to get a sense of the momentum that’s already been built up and just how much we need to do to be ready.
I was intrigued to be invited to a meeting/workshop discussing staff space concepts and ways of working led by the architects responsible for creating our new library work spaces.
Ryder Architecture are responsible for creating spaces that facilitate team tasks and encourage collaboration and cooperative working practices. A move away from the idea of cellular offices, and not to be confused with open plan, we were immediately introduced to the concept of activity driven space.
Driven by the need to be space efficient, activity driven space incorporates different ways of working into the day to day space coexisting together within a flexible working environment. Ideas such as kitchen table discussion spaces for impromptu meetings as well as quick email access where necessary, and the creation of quiet phone free areas for focussed work and 1:1 meeting spaces were suggested.
Much of this will be dependent on the adoption of a new office ethos, especially considering clear desk policy, as well as a new office culture to facilitate this change. The opportunity for some form of functional office personalisation could be possible with personalised walls, pin up areas and places to think.
So what happens next? There is much food for thought as we now consider the most suitable arrangement for teams within their home location space and how flexible or specialist our requirements are.
Watch this space…