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Open spaces, supple bodies?: considering the impact of agile working on social work office practices

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2014
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Number of pages9
Early online date17/02/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

There has been a shift towards social workers in many areas of the UK being based in large open plan offices and working more flexibly and remotely in space. This approach is commonly referred to as ‘agile working’. The paper explores the impact of agile working on social workers’ practices and experiences in office spaces. It discusses data from an ethnographic study of children’s safeguarding social work teams in two locations. One team was based in a large open plan office and was engaged in agile working, the other team was located in a much smaller office and was not using this approach. Data from observations of practice, analysis of material spaces, and interviews with social workers and those responsible for planning office space are examined. The paper concludes that there are qualitative differences between such spaces which are due to agile working arrangements and which are likely to impact significantly on social workers’ experiences of practice, interactions with colleagues and development of practice knowledge. The data also suggest a lack of understanding in social work of the spatial requirements of practitioners and the significance that private and open space has for children’s social work in the current UK context.