Using space effectively

We have developed some recommendations and useful tips to give staff an overview of the principles for using space flexibly; notably, how to allocate, manage and use space according to business needs and to meet individual requirements, ensuring that staff can carry out their work effectively.

Below are some of the key topics which highlight important concepts that staff and teams should be considering, so that they can easily adapt to flexible working practices and ensure that they are making the most out of their workspaces.

There are a whole range of considerations and office design factors that can have an effect on staff productivity and wellbeing - it is important to think about whether your workplace is fit-for-purpose and also, ways in which you could improve effectiveness and efficiency in the way you and your team work.

Desk sharing

Desk sharing can be an effective way of making better use of office space, particularly where there are staff working flexibly and part-time.

Though it needs to be carefully considered and supported by a variety of spaces, desk sharing can be very useful for larger teams and can help enable staff mobility.

A member of staff who frequently moves around to carry out their work in different areas on campus, for example a HR Business Partner or a Project Manager, may need access to a variety of spaces, including group working stations, informal breakout areas and quiet meeting rooms, as well as shared desks which they can use as a 'touch down' work station.

A part-time member of staff, or someone working remotely should try to ensure that their desk is left tidy for others to potentially use when they're not in the office. With a range of IT tools, such as MS Lync, available to all staff, teams can be supported to work flexibly and one can move around easily with their laptop, carrying out their different day-to-day tasks more effectively.

Notably, not everyone's way of working is the same - desk sharing may suit some roles but is not necessarily the right solution for everyone. What's important is staff having access to different spaces which allow for concentration, creativity and collaboration.

Sharing resources

Within colleges, departments and services, flexible working can and should be supported by IT as well as space.

Workspaces and staff facilities should be creative, varied and effective, in order to support staff working in different ways. 

For example, centralised resources including kitchenettes, printers and storage spaces can be shared by various teams and can improve collaboration and resource management.

Break out spaces and informal meeting areas are useful when encouraging staff to get away from their desks, e.g. for lunch breaks, and encourage a positive and flexible working environment and community.

Do you have a project table or a shared meeting space nearby? These could influence your levels of concentration, collaboration and/ or creativity among your team.

Reducing paper storage

Have you ever thought about how much paper and physical space you can save if you were to reduce paper storage within your team?

Space should be allocated according to business need, with potentially smaller offices where numerous filing cabinets of papers and records are no longer needed.

  • How will staff access their personal and shared files in a flexible way?
  • How can different groups manage files effectively, within team, across teams, and externally?
  • How can this enable us to reduce the amount of paper we generate and store?

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding flexible IT solutions, please contact Exeter IT through the Help Desk. In the near future, there will be an alternative to storing documents within a local network space - OneDrive for Business, a cloud-based solution for all staff.

*For information on how to 'green' your workspace and actively engage in sustainable working practices, such as reducing the amount of paper we use, please visit our Sustainability and Green Impact webpages.

Office design

Workspaces should be flexible and adaptable to suit the needs of staff.

A simplified office design should be developed to ensure that there is suitable and compact furniture which can be realigned/ adjusted to allow individuals to carry out their work effectively.

Staff input is an important part of the design process to ensure spaces effectively support the way we work. It is important to consider guidelines and regulations in terms of workstations, equipment, and furniture, etc. More information on office guidelines is available from the Estate Development Service, including our own Space Policy.

*For information on Health & Safety at work, please see DSE, to ensure that your workstation adheres to the University standards for workstation safety. If you require further guidelines, please seek advice from your line manager.

Making the most of your workspace

As part of the Future Workplaces project, we have been intrigued by which design models and furniture solutions can enhance staff wellbeing and productivity, including the influence of office personalisation and plants.

Recent studies indicate the benefits of having plants in the office, including how greenery reduces stress and anxiety and makes staff 'happier and up to 15% more productive.'

Take a look at the first academic study in this field, published and co-authored by one of our own researchers, Dr Craig Knight, in Psychology: Why plants in the office make us more productive.

The image above is an example of what the open plan collaborative workspaces will look like in Living Systems Institute, the new research and teaching building currently under construction, which will bring together leading mathematicians, physicists, cell and molecular biologists, biomedical scientists and engineers.