Wales Centre for Behaviour Change Centre | NUDGE | Behaviour science | newidea-shem : Promoting communication and innovation in the officeBehaviour change | Nudge | WCBC | Bangor | Wales

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Promoting communication and innovation in the office

As part of our team set up here at the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change, we have had the task of creating and innovative and efficient work space/office. As well as our team we are based with the Tesla team, directed by Dr Andy Goodman, also of Bangor University and Pontio.

There are hundreds of articles based around suggestions for productive office space and all have their own opinions and theory’s. As a team we concentrated on articles and ideas by companies such as IDEO and Google, the later especially known for their wacky and innovation stimulating office environments.

One essential criteria for our own office was to help promote multidisciplinary work practice, in essence a cross pollination of skills and people, both within the centre and even more so for all people using the CoLab office space.  As a rough guide to the amount of people using the space at any one time, the WCBC has 6 team members and 4 directors, accounts and Support staff. Tesla has 2-5 staff depending on project needs. We also have Post Grad students working here at times and the room can be used for high profile meetings. Quite a task for a room of approximately 20x8 Meters!

The design of the office space was treated as a design brief and you guessed it we used Phil Mckinneys FIRE process to manage the development of the brief.

Getting started

After researching office spaces and collecting group thoughts of what we all believed the space would need we were able to make at a start at prototyping the new space.

After a few initial sketches we decided that the best way to progress was by building a model. I set to this using recycled card board and some foam card which is great for producing quick furniture mock ups. Having a scaled version of the office allowed for quick iterations and allowed for calculating flow through the office space and promotion of staff interaction.


Of course, it is all very well to prototype the model of the office but to really see if the designs worked we would need to prototype the space ourselves.  This led to a two month period of testing different lay outs. Each space would be tested for between one and three weeks. Good and bad points of each version recorded and from evaluating each a different design layout would be prototyped.  At time of writing we are currently on lay out numero five, or is it six!

Comfy area

One essential area that all CoLab users agreed on installing was a comfy area.
This was not only an area to take lunch break, but an area that allowed a different environment to work on suitable tasks and also to help encourage staff members that don’t normally mix to have a chat over a cup of coffee.

We began prototyping this area by setting up approximately ten office chairs in a form similar to a ‘U’ shape sofa or corner sofa.
However, the area wasn’t being used. I was disappointed by this, as I saw this comfy area as being a real benefit to multidisciplinary conversations amongst other benefits.
I realised or so I hoped that the reason this area wasn’t being used or prototyped was due to the fact that it was meant to resemble a comfy relaxed area, but the rows of office chairs didn’t do this effectively.  How could we prototype this area effectively but with very little budget. We could of course place a purchase order for a corner sofa, but at well over £1000, if the area wasn’t effective it would be an expensive mistake!

I decided it was time to drag out the saw and cordless drill and prototype some sofas to create the comfy area the office needed.

A trip to the local builders merchant, enriched us with a selection of pallets and work began!

With only a hand saw to use, I wanted to design a modular sofa from the pallets, maximising the efficiency of the materials I had available, but also using minimal cuts to reduce work time and also physical energy.  I decided on a format and we made the first sofa. With a general consensus that the sofa worked I made a further two. So… 5 pallets = 3 sofas and enough space for 6-9 people to sit comfortably. Financial cost= a handful of screws.

Clearly pallets aren’t the most comfortable option for sitting on, but that was soon fixed by team Member Dr Kathryn Eccles taking a trip to Ikea and purchasing 3 Cot mattresses and 6 cushions.  At a total cost of £50.


So, our office now has a comfy space to prototype, and I’m pleased to say it seems to be working.  An unexpected result was the activity of creating the space. Most people working in the office space on the day of construction wanted to have some form of input; all of which was greatly appreciated and contributed to the final result. It turned out to be a ‘team building day’ in more way than one!

If your interested in the key features we decided on for our design brief, here are a few key points in bullet form…

·      * Comfy area
·      * Quiet work stations
·      * Work stations to promote communication/interaction
·      * Technical areas for graphic/coding work
·      *Lots of white boards for quick notes and visual communication to share ideas
·      *Ensuring the office space has ‘flow’
·      *Hot desks
·      *Meeting table of sufficient size

…and of course COFFEE!

Here's the office at the moment, on a quiet day!

Finally, using pallets wasn’t only due to wanting to cut costs. With a constant need to reuse and recycle, pallets provide a great way to up cycle and even begin thoughts for a circular economy project based around furniture.  From building the pallet furniture, I’ve began to develop an idea to create a service business which would add extra value and help promote design based around pallets; watch this space…

Our local builder centre was kind enough to give us our pallets, please do not steal pallets as many company’s reuse them as part of their own sustainability measures.

1 comment:

  1. If only I could be relied upon to be practical! Great work!

    - Dyfrig