Changing academic work places: the introduction of open-plan offices in universities

Alfons Van Marrewijk*, Leonore Van den Ende

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relation between the spatial intervention of open-plan offices in a university, the consequential change in work practices of faculty members, and how these practices appropriate the designed space.
Design/methodology/approach – We executed a two-year longitudinal ethnographic study following the case of the Science Faculty, which moved from a traditional office setting to open-plan offices. We studied the space and interviewed staff before, during, and after the introduction of open-plan offices.
Findings – Findings show that the new spatial setting triggered staff members to attribute certain meanings and practices of adaptation which were, partly, unintended by the design of the open-plan offices.
Originality/value – Large budgets are spent on new office concepts at universities but we know little about the relation between spatial (re)design and organizational change. Therefore, this paper contributes empirically grounded insights into the (un)intended consequences of a spatial intervention in terms of how staff members, far from being passive, attribute meaning and alter their work practices leading to unprecedented organizational changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018


  • Change
  • Office redesign
  • Open-plan office
  • Organizational space
  • University campus


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