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Open plan offices for academics

(71 Posts)
Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:25:48

My whole department is being threatened with being moved into a massive open plan office, with 65 people, with desks in "cubicles" (not fully walled off from the open space). I think it sounds horrendous and am panicking, but I'd love to hear of others' experiences. Does anyone work in this kind of layout? Any tips or thoughts on how to cope with this?

JeffreysMummyIsCross Thu 15-Oct-15 15:29:29

My first thought is, how on earth are you expected to undertake pastoral responsibilities? I have crying students with all kinds of issues in my office on a weekly basis? Not to mention quiet space for research.

AndDeepBreath Thu 15-Oct-15 15:31:44

Honestly? I'm in one of these and some days it is loud, some days it's not. It's been better than I expected and has helped me get to know lots of people.

However! Really good quality noise reducing headphones have saved a lot of stress; I bought some Bose ones. Most people have some kind of set around for when they need to lock out the world and focus.

We also have small offices we can book for meetings etc which have been fine.

DamnCommandments Thu 15-Oct-15 15:33:22

People outside academia manage - and so do PhD students. My concern would, like yours, be for students. Not only for tutorial/pastoral support, but also general availability. I bet many academics would work from home under those circs (unless it was specifically banned somehow). It would make them much less available in general.

Still, I don't think research absolutely needs one's own office... Sorry!

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:43:09

Yes, I worry about students. If we have designated offices (cubicles will be hot desks I think) where do we see students with personal issues? And what about confidential documents that we can't leave in a an open plan space? And where do I put all of my books??

EcclefechanTart Thu 15-Oct-15 15:44:11

It's not just research I'm worried about. Students turn up at my office in tears needing help with all sorts of things. How will I be able to see them?

EcclefechanTart Thu 15-Oct-15 15:45:01

Should have added - I'm moving into one of these in January too and am also dreading it for all the reasons everyone else has mentioned!

BoboChic Thu 15-Oct-15 15:45:49

Most of the world has open plan offices. They encourage exchange and good behaviour.

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:45:55

How do headphones work? Do you listen to music or do they just block out the noise of other people talking?

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:47:10

See, I feel like the exchange would be very superficial, because everyone will be able to hear. My research is politically sensitive and there's no way I would be able to discuss it in detail in an open space where 64 other people can hear!

IfIToldYouIdHavetoKillYou Thu 15-Oct-15 15:47:59

Open plan offices have problems whatever your job.
Soundproofing is important. When my office was converted to open plan the ceiling was soundproofed somehow and it really muffled the surrounding noise. We also had rooms to use for privacy / sensitive meetings.

TooMuchRain Thu 15-Oct-15 15:48:24

I have shared with up to seven people and generally liked it but it was an issue for student visits because they often prefer to talk in private (understandably) and the talking was distracting for everyone else. In the kind of set up you describe I would just go in for teaching / student consultation and do all my other work from home.

IfIToldYouIdHavetoKillYou Thu 15-Oct-15 15:49:45

Actually far,far worse than open plan office is hot desking. Nowhere to call home, searching for a desk when you get to work. Loathed that.

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:50:51

But cubicles won't have full height walls, so I think sound may be a big issue. And I see that I can book a room, but like ecclefechan above, I sometimes have students turn up in tears and I need a room then and there. The cubicles are not being assigned to individuals, so I may not even have a desk some days. I just don't get how that can work really.

Plus what does "encourage good behaviour" mean? It sounds a bit ominous.

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 15:55:11

We aren't really supposed to work from home though, as we are being encouraged to be there a minimum of 4 days a week.

And I worry about those (like me, actually) who don't have home offices/adequate book storage space at home. It may work for well-paid senior staff with studies, but for ECRs who may be in shared houses or who have young children at home, it may be very difficult to work from home.

Kacie123 Thu 15-Oct-15 15:58:40

We hot desk etc and it's surprisingly ok, after months of agonising in advance. I hope it is for you too.

It's just a tough part of working in places that can't afford exclusive offices for everyone. Frankly it was inevitable after a lot of people managed to leave their offices unused half the time or more but locked them up firmly as "their space". That sort of luxury (and it is a luxury these days) is increasingly a thing of the past.

Students will have to get used to that too sadly. (I don't mean that rudely - just one of those things) sad

PosterEh Thu 15-Oct-15 16:01:39

Who gets up and opens the door to the six million students who will come a-knocking?

AndDeepBreath Thu 15-Oct-15 16:02:32

I use these which if switched on, turn everything to a mild hush. You can then play music etc over the top of that but most times I don't need to. smile

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 16:02:57

There will be no door! Students can wander in any time. It will all boost The Student Experience, apparently.

Tarzanlovesgaby Thu 15-Oct-15 16:06:24

my office moved to full open plan a couple of years ago.
tbh it's fine.
yes it takes some adjusting but generally it is much better that before.

Poofus Thu 15-Oct-15 16:09:08

That's encouraging! In what way better?

Tarzanlovesgaby Thu 15-Oct-15 16:16:40

nicer environment in total.
better communication, less 'us and them'
fairer for non academic staff who were stuck in windowless areas before.

MultiShirking Thu 15-Oct-15 16:49:41

I think any university contemplating doing this obviously doesn't take research seriously. Or should pay a helluva lot more salary so that research academics can guarantee affording a domestic home with a study. Because that's what universities count on: that academic staff have free clear quiet space in their homes to substitute or supplement inadequate office space, to undertake research.

At my place, once term starts, there are barely any library desks free and it's bluddy noisy. If they too away my office as well ...? God then I'd really have to leave the country.

MultiShirking Thu 15-Oct-15 16:52:33

The cubicles are not being assigned to individuals, so I may not even have a desk some days

This is actually outrageous. HOw are they expecting you to produce REFable research? Where will you keep your research files, your teaching materials, your professional library?

It can't be a serious university to contemplate treating you like that.

MultiShirking Thu 15-Oct-15 16:55:00

They encourage exchange and good behaviour.

That isn't always the way good research, preparation for good teaching, and good teaching work.

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