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 journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


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: The authors 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. The authors 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. Research limitations/implications: 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. Practical implications: For change consultants, facility managers and university managers the outcomes of this paper are highly relevant. Social implications: Large budgets are spent on new office concepts at universities but the authors do know little about the relation between spatial (re)design and organizational change. Originality/value: The introduction of new office concepts, spatial redesign and co-location is for many academics highly emotional.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Changing academic work places: the introduction of open-plan offices in universities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this