Working environments

Work that space

By Siân Robinson Davies and Evgenij Belikov

Background

We often take the arrangement of elements in our research space as fixed. Though we might rearrange the space when first moving in, after this first period we might not think again as to how our spatial needs change with our changing activities and environment, such as the changing of the seasons.

Some recipes in this book are based on the principle that changing spaces affects one’s creativity and aim at moving away from your workplace to a new space to induce creativity. This complementary recipe suggests rearranging the elements of the workplace itself to achieve a similar effect and to better reflect the requirements arising from the current activity.

By changing your environment you are expressing agency in that space – that you can effect change in your own immediate environment. This can be quite important in generating hope for creative thinking (Rego et al, 2009).

Similarly, change in and of itself has a few beneficial side effects for your thinking – basically, it makes you think, which in turn makes you come up with new thoughts.

Ingredients

  • Your work space
  • Furniture, fixtures and fittings, plants, personal items, equipment

Method

  1. Having spent some time in the space, you will have an awareness of how you use it, how you move around it, and areas that are most comfortable. But the chances are that you will also be quite familiar with it too, meaning that you might not have thought about its potential for some time.
  2. Think about other possible configurations of the elements in the space in relation to your current activity and the environment outside the workplace. If you share an office, approach your colleagues and introduce the idea to them. Jointly coming up with suggestions for change can improve the atmosphere in the shared space.
  3. Implement the change and assess its effect.
  4. After a while go back to step two and check whether new needs have emerged that would merit another rearrangement.
  5. Here are a few examples to get you started:
  • You might want to move a favourite chair near a window in summer to use optimal sunlight and allow for a view to the outside while thinking or reading, but move it away in winter due to draughts. What other seasonal changes would you like to make?
  • Try arranging equipment and furniture according to activities so that things are within reach. You might even have different areas of your space dedicated to certain activities.
  • At the very least, have a thinking space – a favourite seat, a space beside the window you like staring out from, or even somewhere away from your main workspace.
  • If a particular piece of equipment or furniture is not being used for a period of time, it could be packed away or moved elsewhere to allow space for other activities that take priority. When this happens, try replacing it with an interesting alternative or make use of the space in another way.
  • The position of people’s desks might need to be rearranged as different collaborations emerge. The chairs in any communal area might need to be rearranged to accommodate the number of people using the space.

Cook’s tips

Keep the elements in the space mobile to make things easy to rearrange and keep the changes reversible so that you can return to a previous configuration.

Have a look at what other people do with their spaces.

Warnings

Remember that the aim of this recipe is to facilitate new ways of thinking, doing and researching. Don’t use rearranging your space as displacement activity!

If the space is shared with other people make sure you communicate your idea before implementing the changes to avoid any conflicts.

BITE: Recipes for Remarkable Research is available in paperback, hardback and as Open Access from:

Sense Publishers: Paperback | Hardcover | Free Open Access
Amazon: Paperback | Hardcover
Barnes & Noble: Paperback | Hardcover

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