Organisation - May 24, 2012

Still hard to concentrate in Actio

- Staff see the positive side of the Open Office.
- But the flexible workplace system makes it harder to concentrate.

Staff at Facilities and Services choose their own workplace.
Staff at Facilities and Services (FS) have been working without desks of their own since last September. A survey by the Delft firm Center for People and Buildings reveals that they are generally positive about the new approach. 64 percent of the respondents say they have found the new system to have a favourable effect, 27 percent are neutral and 9 percent think it has a negative effect.
The experiences with the Open Office in the new Actio building are interesting because this is a pilot for Wageningen UR as a whole. If successful, the flexible workplace system will be introduced in other departments.
The attractively laid out new Actio building, with a lot of open spaces, is the new home of Facilities and Services. Every day, staff are expected to choose a workplace suitable for what they will be doing that day. The survey results show that this Open Office encourages the sharing of knowledge and promotes creativity. The building's architecture and ambience also get high scores. The old building consisted partly of emergency accommodation.
Difficult to concentrate
But respondents also have criticisms. The baseline measurement in the old building showed that 82 percent of the FS staff were satisfied with the opportunities for concentration. That rate has now fallen to 58 percent.
In the old building, FS staff had a room to themselves or shared with one other person. Anyone wanting to concentrate in Actio first has to move from an open-plan office to an individual working area. Annet de Haas, head of Location Facilities and responsible for ordering the new system, suspects the concentration areas are not yet being used properly. 'We have not yet reached the stage where everyone looks for the right workplace for each task. People still find that difficult. We will be discussing this and I hope they will get better at finding the right place.'
Satisfaction with workplace privacy also fell but FS staff don't consider privacy as important as concentration. Other companies that have introduced the Open Office concept have also found a drop in scores for privacy and concentration.
A second poll will take place in the autumn. The final assessment of the Open Office system in Wageningen is expected at the end of 2012.

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