The PLACEmaking blog

Preparing Aston University for the 'new normal' post-Covid


Alison White


February 17, 2021

Aston University has launched the PLACEmaking-designed Agile Working space on the 7th floor of Main Building. The project will serve as a ‘prototype’ for future workplace transformation across the University campus. 

The objective for the prototype was to facilitate the delivery of key university services more efficiently and effectively to the benefit of the University’s ‘customer’ base.

The desire was to create a modern, technology enabled workspace that supports rapidly changing work patterns and new dynamic workstyles. Whilst these changes were conceived prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, acceleration to embracing remote working reinforced the desire to complete the project on time and importantly on budget despite the sequential lockdowns. The workplace and technologies has been supporting remote working since the formal launch in November 2020 and is ready for physical occupation as soon as the latest lockdown is eased.

Space that previously accommodated 100 people working 9 to 5 and sitting at fixed desks now supports 250 people self-selecting time spent working remotely and on-site when desired. Significant investment in remote access, interactive technologies and staff engagement has ensured the new workspace will facilitate dynamic ways of working, enabling collaborative working and productive outputs irrespective of participant location.

With 18 variations of prototype work zones and 14 different types of work settings, the project has now moved in to phase 2, measuring performance and collating feedback intended to inform follow-on projects as part of an estate wide roll-out. Whilst the basic building infrastructure is retained, bold interior design treatments, colour and decorative choices has ensure the prototype includes a variety of quiet places, buzzy spaces, brighter and lighter areas and cooler and calmer spots intended to offer increased options and respond to user personal choice.

The concept was born from the desire to deliver university services in a more efficient and effective way. By adopting a dynamic way of working, it is intended that the new workplace will enable greater collaboration and improve information-sharing across teams. In place of traditional fixed furniture, users are encouraged to rearrange spaces to match their needs and well sited, adjustable technology provides multiple options to ensure the workplace is adaptive to users’ changing needs and not impose restrictions and constraints. The investment was therefore in a culture change: new technologies, new workplace environment, new management approaches and a new attitude to user engagement.

The vision was to create a modern workspace that supports changing work patterns and styles by making more efficient use of space and enabling staff to deliver positive outcomes for the university’s beneficiaries, whilst maintaining a positive work-life balance and using technology to work in a smarter way.

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